I was well excited for this one. So much so that this gig review starts last year.
My alarm goes off at what, in the life of a ‘freelancer’ slash professional layabout is an ungodly hour on a winter morning. So unaccustomed to the harrowing Marimba tone going off at what feels like the middle of the night, that my subconscious goes; ‘That’s not right,’ turns the alarm off and goes back to sleep. No O2 Priority tickets for me.
I got my grubby mitts on tickets to see The Streets eventually, though, some fifteen years after I would’ve liked to as an eight-year-old who simply found it funny that a bloke who sounded liked he liked pub gardens was talking all weird over music on the radio. I’m a child from a village just outside Basingstoke, I dunno what garage is. It sounds like a place where my dad keeps his lawnmower.
I did know what rapping was by the time I was in Year 6, though, and just in time for grime’s golden era to squeeze into an AOL dial-up bandwidth via Limewire and into an MP3 player that looked like a USB stick. On that, a 23-song selection of Roll Deep tracks with Wiley and Dizzee side-by-side, Kano, The Arctic Monkeys, Scatman John (lol) and poignantly, The Streets.
I’ll leave the nostalgic pining, there, because for The Streets to remind me exclusively of being in my Mum’s 1999 Golf 1.6 litre would mean that I left Mike Skinner’s depiction of his Britain in those backseat journeys to and from football training. The reality is, that I’ve probably listened to a Streets song at least once a month for as long ago as since I last removed Busted’s self-titled debut album from my first CD player.
So yeah, I was excited.
Excited to the point of being nervous, in a way. I’d missed that famous ‘last ever Streets performance’ at Reading Festival and my only experience of Mike Skinner in the flesh had been a hazy Tonga Balloon Party and an encounter with him outside The Joker in Brighton – the only time I’ve ever ditched my pride in favour of a selfie, I must admit with a shudder.
But I had no reason to be nervous and the special edition two-pint cups that they were selling exclusively at the Brixton dates of this historic tour quelled any such anxiety, as I and a swarm of many other fans both young and old, geezers and old dears, sweated it out to a pretty masterful set from Skinner and his band.
He started with Turn The Page and it would’ve been rude not, too, as your local street city poet brought that song to life as much as it was in May last year, when, with it playing in my bog standard Apple earphones, I charged out of Hove following the news that my external hard drive full of Uni work due that month was beyond repair. It’s a mad song, that. Almost too intentionally poetic and purposefully epic. Almost too much of a song to start an album with, or to start a music legacy with. Almost too much of a song to open a gig with. Almost.
It just set the tone for the next couple hours, as Mike Skinner, now aged 38 and seemingly having the best time of his life, delivered hit after hit, cult classic after cult classic. Much of the songs on the setlist were from those first two glorious albums, probably to the relief of many. But for me, Never Went To Church from that ‘do I really like being famous era’ Skinner and Heaven For The Weather from his underrated fourth album went off, too – the latter to the smiliest mosh pit that I’ve ever actively avoided being a part of.
Fucktonnes of sweaty arms, hair and faces shimmered every now and then in stage lights, as that smart ramp-like layout of Brixton Academy allowed everyone to witness the man, himself, be he standing on amps or front crawling around the crowd.
It was a really, really nice evening.
Least of all because the bloke who was the reason we were all there, was clearly having an excellent time. It must be a weird age for Mike Skinner, 38. He’s used to do coke and know Cat Deeley. Now he’s got a young family and his slightly receding hairline and Xanax-free diet must make him incredibly untrendy to a younger audience. Not a single tattoo on his face.
But with newer music like ‘Bad Decisions In The Night,’ sadly absent from this night in South London, and ‘Boys Will Be Boys,’ very much present on this night in South London, it’s clear that his love for contemporary music is as strong as ever and so is his passion for putting on younger artists. Jaykae smashes that grime track that’s blessed with a typically Skinnery hook, and from the looks of this date and through the cyberwindow of Instagram, it seems as if crowds are going mad for the Birmingham MC right now.
A younger talent that Skinner once endorsed, Kano, an aforementioned Limewire OG, was brought out for one of the Brixton gigs, too. Sadly, this was one that I wasn’t at. That’s my only gripe on what was a special night for an 8-year-old me, a 12-year-old me, a 19-year-old me, current day me and for Michael Geoffrey Skinner, himself.