Live Review: The Streets

UEA, Norwich, Monday 28th February

Pic: Dean Chalkley
For a moment there, back in 2002, The Streets were the future. A first-listen-classic to many, ‘Original Pirate Material’ was not so much a gateway as a floodgate; a fertile, formative beast of a record of almost Darwinian significance. ‘OPM’ turned many of us with a thirst for novelty on to alternative hip-hop, post-garage D&B and most notably grime, a chain of underground distributaries whose influence would eventually trickle back to one bright upstart by the name of Alex Turner.

Fast-forward nine years: Norwich UEA, scene of the modern-retro ziggurat architecture which graces the cover of The Streets’ final album ‘Computers And Blues’. Skinheads everywhere, and The Streets’ days are numbered. ‘Fit But You Know It’’s furious, pounding guitar stabs induce onrushes of mayhem. Bouncers hungrily eye up an expanding contingent of potential troublemakers. True to his cheeky persona, Mike ain’t much help. “I can’t smell marijuana yet... Someone should just spark up,” he teases. “Don’t be shy – they all do it in Norway!”

The ‘OPM’-heavy setlist would leave only the harshest critic disappointed. A solitary snare drop is all it takes to ignite ‘Don’t Mug Yourself’ delirium, and the dirty organ pulse of ‘Let’s Push Things Forward’ jumps with the energy of a whole room treasuring it one last time. For a moment, it was the future, and before long it’ll be a figment of the past.

The Streets’ spirit, though, will live on: it shines brightly within Skinner-endorsed, don’t-call-it-post-grime MC Ghostpoet for one; and in view of Arctic Monkeys’ phalanx of imitators, we’d wager Skinner DNA will be at the roots of peculiarly intriguing flowerings 20, 30 years from now.

Back in the infancy of a decade that never quite grew into its potential, The Streets pushed things forward like no other. And sure, there’ll be those who say Mike’s post-‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’ output reeked of cod philosophies and stale humour. But as ‘The Escapist’ swells and surrounds Norwich UEA for the last time, there’s a sea of hands, a chorus of voices, that wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jazz Monroe

The Streets' 'Computers and Blues' NME album review
The Streets - 'Going Through Hell'
Video: The Streets - 'Going Through Hell'

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