A peerless live performer, who keenly balances his experience behind the decks and on the microphone; Mike Skinner is renowned for his energetic, and often-times poetic, onstage presence.
Alongside Skinner’s various musical co-patriots, The Streets’ live set is the product of a multitude of lavish and bountiful inspirations, genres and storytelling modes: a collective that appears perfectly at home at Nottingham’s Rock City.
Marking the fourth stop on his highly-anticipated The Darker The Shadow The Brighter The Light tour, Skinner has already set himself a hard gig to top, and Nottingham’s set will go down as the best live performances the city has seen this year, if not one of the best in living memory.
Armed with Rock City’s infamous 2-Pint Cup, and a newly-purchased ‘The Streets’ lighter (which will not be making the rounds in any smoking area or bar), weaving through the already giddy crowd is a tall order. Bustling and eager, people are keeping their feet firmly in place to defend their viewing station.
The gig starts with a thumping, bright green light, on-beat with the collective’s infamous ‘Intro.’ It doesn’t take long for the audience to fit into pace, already well-immersed as they shift gears into ‘Turn the Page.’
The band thrive in the club-cum-music-venue, with an uncanny pastiche threading through their entire set; Skinner spitting tunes in a building that would not be too dissimilar to their night-life centric influences. Skinner ties his disparate world of spoken-word wizardry and the club scene dystopia together.
The gig is inextricably linked to the dancefloor, both in musicality with tidal waves of bass, garage, and house spurred on by an impressive electric light show, and in performance, as Skinner concocts an experience akin to stumbling through different rooms of the club. The frontman can’t stay still, climbing the riggings of the venue, jumping into the audience, delicately excusing his way through crowds and spraying champagne from the second-story balcony.
It feels more like an immersive, visual storytelling experience than a gig; an ethos a few audience members may have taken too seriously, with one particular individual creating a large, indoor joint circle a few metres away.
Skinner commands the stage with undeniable presence and a quintessential Britishness; professionally armed with geographically-centred trivial pursuit facts. It would not be surprising if Skinner had googled the city of Nottingham just an hour before he went on stage, proclaiming himself and his band members ‘Robin Hood and his Merry Men’, always eager to steal from the rich, while also educating the crowd of the Anglo-Saxon etymology of the term ‘Snottingham’.
The performance is almost omnisciently tied to the crowd, the audience dictating the mood, beats and tempo of the tracks. The music seems to grow and thrive around the masses like a musical mould. Harvesting, flourishing, and clinging to every member, so that they are still thriving off the lifeforce that is ‘The Streets’, long after they left the building. The body-encompassing heft of tracks light ‘Blinded by the Lights’ and ‘Weak Become Heroes’ clinging to them on their commute home.
The Darker The Shadow, The Brighter The Light‘s work certainly fosters this environment with characteristically subtle two-step rhythms and rampant four-to-the-floor bass; setting a pace from which listeners embody the album’s lyrical bird’s eye view of chaos in the club, a club of which we were all, now, distinctly apart of.
‘Too Much Yayo‘ and ‘Troubled Waters‘ stands alongside the greats of Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come for Free, offering a more mature and nostalgic perspective to the characteristically The Street’s lyrical prophetisation of drug-induced hysteria, lost loves, kebabs and Sunday-morning ‘hangxiety’.
The night ends on a cinematic scale, with an encore which entails Skinner climbing the steps to the balcony of Rock City, a bottle of champagne in hand – which he had promised to an audience member he had nicknamed ‘the very sexy, Spanish man’ whom he had accidentally kicked in the head earlier in the set.
Almost like a prophet on the mound, the overhead club lighting shines directly onto Skinner, ‘Club Land’ adorning the man whom they had now appointed their leader in an almost celestial glow. Teenagers, couples, groups of rowdy lads and various patrons alike now stand, looking up, eager for the finale.
‘Dry Your Eyes‘, ‘Blinded by the Lights‘ and ‘Take Me as I Am‘ all meld into one seamless concoction. And with the spraying of the champagne, the magical potion that has been carefully, imitably created this Thursday night is complete.
“You’re not going to work tomorrow,” Mike Skinner proclaims. I doubt many did.