The Streets deliver Boardmasters a set of celebration, reflection, and optimism

Relentless Boardmasters 2009 review

published: Tue 11th Aug 2009

The Streets

Wednesday 5th to Sunday 9th August 2009
Watergate Bay, nr Newquay, Cornwall, TR8 4AN, England MAP
£54.99 adult ticket for both days, £14.99 per beach session
daily capacity: 12500
last updated: Wed 5th Aug 2009

It seems that barely a British festival has passed this summer without an appearance from The Streets and tonight they are the main attraction on the Main Stage at the end of day one of Relentless Boardmasters.

Mike Skinner, accompanied by his MC sidekick Calvin and a full live band, are certainly putting in the miles as The Streets wind their towards the end of their story, planned for next year, with one final studio album in the pipeline before they call it a day.

Speaking to efestivals hours before his headline set, Skinner confirmed he plans to release the album, which he has already leaked in early demo form via Twitter, in February, and that the project has moved on significantly since those Twitter sessions.

The Streets
Tonight's set stays close to the one they've been touring all summer, and they start with a brief blast of the excellent, bassy, new song In 'The Middle', which seems destined to be one of the stand-out tracks on the forthcoming album.

It is quickly moulded into traditional opener 'Let's Push Things Forward', stirring up an already raucous crowd with its dubby bassline and stabbing keyboards before snapping into the apt for this weekend 'Fit But You Know It' and provoking a mass singalong - "This is just another case of female stopping play on an otherwise total result of a holiday" being roared back at Skinner and his band with real gusto.

He then pairs two songs from last year's 'Everything Is Borrowed' album, which tug on the heart strings and with the sun now on its final descent over the ocean, it's a beautiful scene. 'The Escapist' is full to brimming with sentiment and optimism, in keeping with the new direction Skinner seems to be heading in, following the laments of lost love characterised by his first two albums and the bare honesty and chaotic neuroticism of coming to terms with a damaging celebrity lifestyle on 'The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living'.

The Streets
Calvin leaves the stage as the majestic, sweeping strings opening to Original Pirate Material's awesome first track 'Turn The Page' rises up and pummels its way into the consciousness. He returns for a brilliant, lively 'Don't Mug Yourself', the duo clearly vibing off each other, huddled side by side stage right with their faces inches apart, exchanging their parts in the song and miming actions.

'Where My Heart Has Been', the most instantly accesible song from the Twitter sessions, follows, with the verses more densely packed with words than on previous albums, and Skinner appears to be taking his rapping more seriously than on past projects. It's a regretful, wistful song, shot through with optimism, reinforced by the major-key piano chords. It contains the tongue-twisting line "Don't give 'em what they think they want, just give 'em what they need, I don't want to want what I want, but I know that your heart bleeds", delivered word-perfectly by a frontman who seems in the form of his life this summer.

A huge rendition of 'Weak Become Heroes', with its grand, opening piano chords, and free party-saluting lyrics, rachets the atmosphere in the crowd up another level, with Skinner admitting that he's "concerned about you lot".

He returns to downbeat territory for 'Never Went To Church', the heartbreakingly frank, and honest tale he wrote while searching for answers following his father's death, and returns with another song from 'Everything Is Borrowed' - 'On The Edge Of A Cliff', with it's gloriously hopeful chorus line "For millions of years since the onset of time, every single one of your ancestors has survived, every single person on your mum and dad's side, successfully looked after and passed onto you life".

The Streets
Halfway through the song Skinner bellows for the soundman to turn up the thus far largely inaudible guitar in the mix and after little discernible improvement, marches over to the amp to effect the change himself, resulting in a riproaringingly loud, piercing solo from his Roots Manuva-lookalike guitarist to carry the song to its conclusion.

Skinner confesses that every time he visited Newquay in his youth he had his heart broken, before pouring everything into an epic, pleading 'Dry Your Eyes' and leaving to a huge ovation.

There's little doubt over whether an encore will follow, with the frontman's name being universally chanted into the night sky and next to nobody walking away from the Main Stage. Skinner and his band return with a full run-through of 'In The Middle', which is built and built until exploding into a formidable drum n bass juggernaut.

The Streets
There's a snatch of Bill Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone' before a bleakly beautiful, stirring 'It's Too Late'. Slowed down, swathed in strings and funerial organ, it's nigh on impossible not to feel a lump rising in your throat if you've experienced anything close to its hopeless, regretful yearning heartbreak. Skinner reserves most emotion and gut-wrenching sentiment for the line 'Then the facts turned me pale, wind rain and hail. My fears unveiled, for my fair female. She'd walked away, too little too late'.

The mood is dragged, kicking and screaming, back skywards for 'Blinded By The Lights', Skinner restlessly pacing the stage, bellowing his catchphrase "Can you see me?" into the mic and, as has become his recent trademark, ordering the crowd to crouch down low "together" before ushering them back up into a final, joyous, bouncing mass as the set's end is greeted by a huge roar.

It's been another set of genuine emotion - celebration, reflection and Skinner's new-found optimism and after a summer of such impassioned performances, it's a shame to The Streets' journey nearing its end, but you can't help feeling that whatever comes next will be worth sticking around for.
review by: Steve Palmer

Wednesday 5th to Sunday 9th August 2009
Watergate Bay, nr Newquay, Cornwall, TR8 4AN, England MAP
£54.99 adult ticket for both days, £14.99 per beach session
daily capacity: 12500
last updated: Wed 5th Aug 2009


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