The Streets - Melbourne Billboard

Mike Skinner and co party in Melbourne...
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The bushfires in Victoria give the lyrics to ‘Turn The Page’ – fires raging, a sea of black – fresh meaning as the track kicks off the encore on the first night of The Streets’ two Melbourne shows.

Mike Skinner reveals he’s tried to give blood; support act Muscles cancels so he can continue to help friends with the recovery effort.

But, as the ‘Everything Is Borrowed’ tour continues Down Under, The Streets are also bringing the party – a birthday party, as it happens, with DJ Magic Mike, the man who discovered Skinner almost ten years ago, turning 30 on the night.

Playing the role of party clown to perfection he’s soon leaping around the stage, engaging in handshakes and banter with the front rows (safe in the knowledge the velvet-voiced Kevin Mark Trail will pick up the pieces), even accepting a “FUCK OFF SYDNEY” scarf and parading it onstage to ensure the crowd is his.

There’s a triumphal feel throughout, The Streets’ back catalogue strong enough barely an intro passes that doesn’t elicit spontaneous shouts or gasps from the packed Billboard: ‘Don’t Mug Yourself’’s staccato drumbeats; the piano of ‘Could Well Be In’.

The set leans heavily on debut album ‘Original Pirate Material’ – sounding as fresh as on its release in 2001 – and Skinner seems to take greatest pleasure revisiting his earliest lyrics. ‘Let’s Push Things Forward’ morphs into a dubby breakbeat cover of The Prodigy’s ‘Out Of Space, while the warm synth strings of ‘It’s Too Late’ feel like rediscovering an old friend.

He’s not above testing the loyalty of the Australian audience either, directing them to crouch to the floor in anticipation of the beat dropping on more than one occasion and encouraging everyone to tell a stranger they love them.

But as much as he enjoys playing the jester, Skinner remains one of the UK’s most innovative musicians of the past decade and, having climbed atop a monitor, proceeds to turn ‘Blinded By The Lights’ – his sublime recreation of clubbing on drugs – into a piece of comical performance art.

The encore ensures grown men get to hug and stare into each other’s eyes during ‘Dry Your Eyes’, and Skinner reminds everyone he’s not exhausted his well of inspiration with a perky ‘Heaven For The Weather’ before getting the entire dancefloor bouncing with a bass-heavy ‘Fit But You Know It’.

The next Streets album is supposed to be the last. On this evidence, they’ll be missed when they’re gone.

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