The Streets review, Glastonbury 2024: An hour of joyous pandemonium

The Streets’ Mike Skinner is a man of the people  (Getty Images)
The Streets’ Mike Skinner is a man of the people (Getty Images)

What a belter. On their last two appearances ats Glastonbury, The Streets have closed the festival on the Sunday night in the recently-renamed Woodsies tent, providing a rowdy last hurrah to exhausted revellers. A sonic “one for the road”, if you will. So it is something of a fillip to see them playing the far bigger Other Stage on the Saturday night, one down from headliners Disclosure. They’ve gone from digestif to apéritif on the hedonism menu – and this is surely the party of the weekend.

Rampant bonhomie, mass singalongs, crowdsurfing, coloured flares and a packed crowd comprising everyone from young children to beardy hippies as the sun sets... this gig is an hour of joyous pandemonium. It’s truly one for the ages. And conducting this raucous orchestra is Mike Skinner, a man who proves tonight via his innate understanding of what makes this festival tick – the humour, the eccentricity, the importance of the Saturday night at the greatest show on Earth – that he is a true Glastonbury legend.

The Streets is essentially Skinner, a Birmingham-born rapper and producer who, blends hip hop with UK garage, ska and indie rock, overlain with whip-smart, often humorous lyrics about the minutiae of city life: the insecurities; the clubs and their back rooms; the romances; and the characters.

He walks on stage nonchalantly, dressed in black shorts and a black t-shirt, as if he’s searching for some tea bags. But within two songs he’s crowdsurfing. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re closer to the end than the beginning,” he says of the fact that tomorrow is Glastonbury’s last day. “We do not have much time.” And, wow, do the band and the crowd make up for it.

“I can see you’ve been saving it up,” he says, impressed.

The sharp wordplay and reggae skank of early track “Let’s Push Things Forward”, from 2002’s debut album Original Pirate Material, remind us how Skinner became a sort of bedroom bard of Noughties urban Britain. A metropolitan Morrissey. A high-rise Hogarth. The Streets disbanded in 2011 but released their sixth studio album, The Darker The Shadow The Brighter The Light, last year. It went Top 10.

Skinner has lost none of his energy as a performer (Getty Images)
Skinner has lost none of his energy as a performer (Getty Images)

Now 45, Skinner has lost none of his energy as a performer. He leaps off speakers, clambers onto audience members’ shoulders, walks into the crowd to reach a Streets-themed flag, and dispenses advice about how to avoid the post-headline crush when going “up the hill” to the party zones. The crowd, not the performer, is the real headline act at Glastonbury, he tells us. This isn’t empty flattery – he means it – and it creates an ever-increasing loop of energy between him and us.

“Fit But You Know It” is 20 years old. Lyrically, the song perhaps feels that way: it’s set in a chip shop during a lads’ holiday, and finds Skinner colourfully addressing sexual politics through some inch-thick beer goggles. But the song’s rowdy chug is brutally enlivening.

Crowd members have cameo moments on the screens. Most memorable is a sweet little boy on someone’s shoulders. Suddenly, grinning, the little angel flips up his middle finger to the camera. It’s a very Streets moment. They end the set with 2020’s “Take Me As I Am”, a bruising slice of drum and bass with a delightfully filthy industrial synth refrain that goes right through you.

As the final notes play, the crowd don’t really move. Instead, venturous glances and twinkles are exchanged between friends. It’s 9.30pm on Glastonbury’s biggest night, and over 1,000 acres of Somerset are there for the taking. These Streets could lead anywhere. And they will. See you up the hill. We all smile. We all sing.