The Streets - Birmingham Academy
'A game of two halves' was a term seemingly created to apply to the night's support acts. 22 year-old Londoner Professor Green was keen to inform the audience that his debut single is produced by none other than the night's main act. However, I can't help but thinking his sound was more akin to Blazin' Squad. Fortunately, second act Sway was much more fun, one of the few support acts I've seen in a while who really did his job and warmed up the crowd. The cheers he managed to conjure from the crowd almost matched the volume levels Mr Skinner managed to elicit. Almost...
Clad in a fancy pink suit jacket and accompanied by partner-in-crime Leo, Skinner was met with rapturous applause from an eager crowd. He didn't disappoint, opening song Prangin' Out a heady way to start proceedings. Having not heard the new album before the show, I didn't know what to expect due to the mixed reviews it has received. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the smattering of songs delivered from The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living sat very nicely alongside the classics. Most impressive were, perhaps surprisingly, the two slower numbers off the record, these being the much-hyped new single Never Went to Church and hit-in-waiting All Goes Out the Window, where Leo shows off his vocal range to startling effect. The only dud is the mediocre War of the Sexes, a mis-step in an otherwise near-perfect whole.
The biggest cheers of the night were awarded to the 'ones we all know', and these sounded as fresh as ever. Dry Your Eyes closed the set and proved it still has the power to get every attendee's lighter and/or mobile phone up in the air, whilst Fit But You Know It was saved for a one-song encore - one is enough when you have a tune that can get an entire throng of revellers jumping up and down as Skinner did here. The majority of material was lifted off Original Pirate Material, considered The Streets' best work to date and possibly signalling that, despite the singles getting considerably better over time, Skinner will never make an entire album that will match the splendour of his debut. Don't Mug Yourself, It's Too Late, Weak Become Heroes, Has It Come To This - they were all correct and present, sounding better than ever and delivered with as much enthusiasm as anyone could hope for. The only disappointment is the fact that The Irony of It All was sadly not included but you really cannot complain after being treated to so many gems in a show that ran just over the one-hour mark. And when surprises such as brief riffs on hits by Gnarls Barkley and Arctic Monkeys were thrown in, anyone who does complain is a most ungrateful twerp.
Having previously bared witness to a Streets performance at the V Festival last year, I wasn't sure what to expect at a gig venue. I'd enjoyed my first experience but wasn't massively overwhelmed. However, I must give credit where credit is due here - this was one of the best gigs I've attended in a long time. The boat was well and truly pushed out. If you're going to Reading or Leeds, I heartily advise that you go check him out. He promised he would push things forward, and he certainly wasn't fibbing.