I’ve always liked The Streets. Back in 2004, their set at Live 105’s summer concert in the Bay Area was my highlight of the day. I hadn’t seen them since that show, so I was excited see Mike Skinner and his crew this past Thursday night at Club Nokia. For the most part, the show was a success, but the smaller-than-anticipated crowd size and some technical issues created a few problems. First off, Mike came out onstage and seemed to be in a bad mood. He kept saying things like “everyone spread out, there’s plenty of room”, since it wasn’t close to a capacity crowd. He then kept messing with his earpiece and going to the side of the stage and discussing some sound issue he had with his monitor or whatever. To my ears it didn’t sound particularly bad, but Skinner definitely had issues with something.
His less-than-chipper demeanor didn't take away from the songs, as he still put a lot into the performance. This contrasted to the time I saw Lily Allen at the Fillmore in San Francisco and she held a red cup in her hand the entire set, taking sips every few minutes. She was positively “knackered” or “tossed” or some such British term, forgetting lyrics and basically making a big mess onstage.
I recognized most of the songs the Streets played, but there were some with which I was not familiar. The crowd seemed to enjoy the whole set, despite Skinner’s state and how he kept complaining about the sound. The crowd might not have been really big, but it was a lively one (at least up in front on the floor).
Skinner and his crew went through most of their most notable songs, such as the set opener Let’s Push Things Forward. I wasn’t familiar with a few songs in the set, which is odd considering I have all of the Streets’ albums. I don’t know where the other songs came from, but I didn’t recognize them. I was glad to see them play a bunch of songs from Original Pirate Material, including Let’s Push Things Forward, Turn the Page, Has it Come to This?, Turn the Page, Don’t Mug Yourself, and Weak Become Heroes. I’d have liked to hear The Irony of it All, but oh well.
One thing I didn’t like about the Streets’ set was how Skinner pulled onstage a sound technician and basically embarrassed her by complaining about the sound quality and telling the crowd that she was responsible (or something like that). I don’t have a problem with him being upset over some sound problems but it’s not cool to do that to some random worker trying to do her job. It wasn’t very nice, but whatever.
That aside, the show was entertaining overall. The Streets’ backing band, made up of a bassist, drummer, keyboard player, and samples/acoustic guitar guy were competent, albeit not as flamboyant and jam-happy as Lily Allen’s backing band is. The show just had this overall air of impatience, probably caused by Skinner being upset about the sound. At the end of the set he actually said “the first half of this set was probably the worst we’ve played in years, so if anyone here wants to get half their money refunded you can do that”, which was really cool to hear, even if we in the pit couldn’t really tell there were sound issues. He followed up on that request via his Twitter page as well, so he must have meant business when he said that. I wonder if anyone took him up on that offer.
In closing, the Street’s concert at Club Nokia wasn’t perfect by any means – Skinner complaining about the sound, the significantly undersold theater, punting a water bottle across the stage and shorting out a laptop computer, and so on. It was erratic, but still a good show, despite the issues.
I like unique British musicians, and Mike Skinner is definitely that. He made most of the beats for his records in his room back in the day (and presumably does now), and he creates some really cool offbeat hip hop music with a creative vision and sense of storytelling. Original Pirate Material is a visionary record, something that caught me (and many other people) off guard when it was released, and each record after that has continued that trend. Skinner has a gift for creating music, that much is certain.
I was glad I went to this show, as I had really wanted to see the Streets live again after that last time five years ago. Despite the fact that they probably should have booked a smaller venue than Club Nokia, I and the other people in the crowd had fun, and I hope the band did as well.
I hope the next time the Streets plays in LA it will run a little bit smoother than this time. It was still a good show overall, though.