For one last time, we all smile, we all sing.
There’s a lad on our sportsdesk called Jim, whose stock answer to any statement you throw at him is, ‘Oh, right, yeah.’
‘Jim, turn over to ESPN, Everton are playing Bolton.’
‘Oh, right, yeah.‘
‘Jim, I’m gonna be late for work as I’m locked out my house.’
‘Oh, right, yeah.’
‘Jim, Michael Jackson‘s died.‘
‘Oh, right, yeah.’
‘Jim, Kim Jong Il has declared World War III.‘
‘Oh, right, yeah. ‘
I couldn’t help but do ‘a Jim’ when Mike Skinner announced he was calling time on The Streets earlier this year.
‘Oh, right, yeah…’ seemed the only fitting response. Mild indifference, mixed with a nonchalance that this was the natural conclusion to a project that had been running out of steam for some time.
Yet, come 11pm on Monday evening, there was a sense that not only would The Streets be a big miss but Skinner’s next chapter could yet have equal importance.
From the kick-off Don’t Mug Yourself and Let’s Push Things Forward, offer timely reminders of just how strong that opening salvo of Original Pirate Material really was; set in the context of it’s 2002 release there was little comparison breaking through onto commercial radio that married garage’s underground beats and heavy regionalised accents with a catchy pop sensibility – characteristics so common place in today’s hit parade it’s hard to remember a time without them.
These sound system bangers hit hard, and when fellow vocalist, and long-time The Streets collaborator, Kevin Mark Trail, calls on Liverpool to skank – Liverpool duly obliges.
But this is no nostalgia party either. Yes, Skinner acknowledges the good times he’s had during the last ten years, and that he’s started a family and priorities have simply changed, but musically tonight is a complete voyage into the then and now. He opens with Outside And Inside from latest, and last, The Streets record Computers and Blues – as wah-funk beats and the strong blend of rocky wafts around the rafters of the Academy – ‘Pass it around, pass it around,’ Skinner implores, clearly revelling in the constant sway.
Also revelling in the occasion is ex-The Music frontman Robert Harvey who takes the lead on newies OMG and Soldiers, deftly reining in his Robert Plant rockist tendencies turning in a nifty dance-pop vocal which has the entire room singing in unison.
But it’s the older tracks which truly dazzle. Weak Become Heroes is every inch the club classic – Skinner taking to the lip of the stage to stand atop of a podium (something he does throughout) to orchestrate the bobbing masses, It’s Too Late still has the melancholic power to sound both heart-breaking and ultimately life-affirming, Turn The Page is as razor-sharp as it is mechanical and deadening, while Dry Your Eyes somehow manages to sound fresh and vital despite being played to death during Skinner’s commercial peak.
This is of course, the last hurrah, so the entire room is encouraged to sit down during a particularly incredible, extended version of Blinded By The Lights and as the bass boom hits the whole place springs to life as strobes pang in every direction and when the band boots like there really is no tomorrow during a frenetically silly Fit But You Know It, Skinner seems genuinely overwhelmed by the response – ‘I’ve got about 20% left, and I’m gonna need your help to get me over the line.‘
He closes with latest single, Going Through Hell, perhaps a statement of intent – Skinner refusing to dwell on past glories – and it can only feel like the closure of his first glorious chapter. What’s next? A front-room producer, remixing legends and delivering the goods under various pseudonyms while changing nappies and ordering pizza?
Who knows. What’s for certain is that nobody likes goodbyes, but The Streets‘ swansong in Liverpool never feels anything but triumphant.
Pictures courtesy of Mark McNulty.