“Have you ever had psilocybin?” asks Mike Skinner as he skips across the bleachers of Dalston’s Earth. “I feel very wavy right now….”. The fact that The Streets’ head geezer has just leapt out of a cafe in the middle of the 750 capacity former cinema is no mushroom-induced hallucination though, but rather the product of a lavish livestream set-up that would put your average summer season at the National Theatre to shame.
Not only is there a scale replica of local Hackney greasy spoon Leo’s, but there is also a fully-stocked record shop up in the gods, a fake bar where all the drinks have Streets-themed names (A Gin Don’t Come For Free etc), a mini Glastonbury stone circle complete with tatty hay bales, a taxidermy and dartboard decorated boozer and a nightmarish darkened room with one swinging, bare lightbulb. Oh, and though one track is performed from inside the ladies’ loos for some reason, they’ve decided to line the venue’s stairs with urinals.
This month The Streets were supposed to be one of the first acts to start touring again, bringing ‘None of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive’ – their first full length release in almost a decade – to fields and car parks across the country as part of a drive-in tour. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the shows were cancelled, with promoters citing the threat of local lockdowns making it “impossible for us to continue with the series with any confidence”.
Rather than glumly admit defeat, Mike Skinner decided to join the likes of Laura Marling and Nick Cave in hosting a ticketed streamed gig. Treading a thin line between chaotic energy and extremely well stage-managed artistry, Skinner’s gig is a budget-busting, constantly in motion tour de force – that at one point sees him on the roof of the venue, looking out over Kingsland Road under a giant Streets billboard as he gets his breath back.
As the show progresses, different parts of the venue reveal themselves; the collection of massive mirror balls at the very head of the venue, the fact that the drummer is set up at the top of where the audience would be, the TV screens which pipe in IDLES’ contribution during the new mixtape’s title track, The Music‘s Rob Harvey bounding across some steps to sing the part of Tame Impala Kevin Parker’s part in ‘Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better’. It’s the kind of stuff that, were this a normal gig with hundreds of fans and Skinner stuck to the stage rather than being allowed to roam free across the huge room, would be impossible.
It gives the old classics new content too. Instead of just rattling out the hits – which, of course, he does – Skinner and his band, including ‘Original Pirate Material’ vocalist Kevin Mark Trail, find fresh ways to pile into ‘Has It Come To This’, taking it into the dusty record store, before hanging about by an old school red phone box for ‘Weak Become Heroes’, gritting their teeth through the prescient ‘Stay Positive’ by the bogs, smashing tequila shots in the bar during a celebratory ‘Heaven For The Weather’ and crooning ‘Dry Your Eyes’ by the haystacks. “If you’re a festival and want us to play next year, we will,” states Skinner during one of his many seemingly ad-libbed pieces to camera. Can we hold him to that?
The exhausting hour and 10 minutes ends with a champagne finish, Skinner spraying the non-existent crowd with Moet alongside a foam machine and confetti cannons, telling the cameras which have been following him around the venue all night: “I am your wave god, wave god number one.” Does it make sense? Not really. Is it the finest, funnest livestreamed gig we’ve seen so far? Certainly.