Live Review: The Streets @ O2 Academy, Newcastle|28.01.19

Mike Skinner. The man behind one of the most influential British bands of the 21stcentury; the man that inspired a generation of British youth to pick up a mic and make music about what they saw around them, despite how mundane it seemed, despite any perceived accent barriers. With The Streets, Mike Skinner showed that you can achieve success without trying to emulate American ideals; he was the first truly British ‘rapper’ to really grab the attention of the mainstream.

Almost two decades after The Streets first hit the airwaves, Mike Skinner is back on the road. Facing a sold-out O2 Academy Newcastle, Skinner takes to the stage with a look of wide-eyed focus – has the Brummie icon still got it?

Jumping straight into the ‘Original Pirate Material’ classics with “Turn The Page”, Skinner’s first order of business is to turn over a monitor – where he’d end up perched for the majority of the show – before quickly getting right amongst the front row on a box placed just below stage. Never one for following convention, rather than talking to the crowd in between songs, Skinner opted to frequently go on mini-rants during tracks, showing a freakish ability to jump perfectly back into the correct part of the song after he’d finished.

Skinner’s seemingly unhinged outbursts made the set that much more exciting because you had no idea what he was going to say or do next. Throughout the set Skinner addressed “the people at the back” directly, reassuring them that he “knows their pain” and that he’d be at the back too if he were at a gig. The first song that went uninterrupted by Skinner was “Never Went To Church”, a heartfelt ode to the artist’s late father. By the end of the song, Skinner sat on his monitor, head in hands, visibly overcome with emotion as the track was sung back to him.

Having already put the fear into the event security with his front row handshakes, the unpredictable Skinner was about to ramp it up a level. “Girls can’t crowd surf you know, because they just get fucking sexually assaulted by men. Now, are we going to move forward or are we stuck in the fucking caveman past Newcastle?” Skinner preached, then he asked for the lights to be turned on so that any women could crowd surf in a “controlled manner, in the name of feminism.” 

Skinner’s final act of unpredictability had been brewing in his mind all night. He frequently brought up the bar; how he wants a drink from the bar, how he once crowd surfed to the bar. Come the last track, the riotous “Fit But You Know It”, Skinner took to the bar, leaping on to perform the entire track. “Look, you’re not at the back anymore!” Skinner proclaimed to the now right-hand side of the crowd.

Aided by a touch of madness and a fair amount of controlled chaos, Mike Skinner proved that he is still one of the most uniquely entertaining performers in the music industry.

Johnathan Ramsay