Thursday, July 01, 2004

Bringing Back the Brit-Hop

My first exposure to the sort of overwhelming breaking-band buzz I deal with on a daily basis here in New York back in 2002 when I was living in Southern California and the Streets "Original Pirate Material" was coming out. The Streets were all that magazines like Vice wanted to talk about, cool stores always blasted the album's catchier tracks, people in record stores would just stand around talking about how great "Original Pirate Material" was. Myself, I was hesitant to check the record out because of what it was: British hip hop, but the buzz continued like a headache and, while visiting San Francisco for a weekend, I found myself at the Amoeba on Haight and couldn't take it any more. I was helpless, I grabbed a copy of the CD so that I would no longer have to deal with people talking about a record I didn't know at all.

As I first listened to "Original Pirate Material", all I could think was: I have completely wasted my money. It wasn't until a few weeks later that I dared listen to it again, and I liked it a little better, my curiosity was piqued, at least. And curiosity kept this cat listening to the record, and before I knew it, I was nuts about the album and nuts about the Streets. So I consider myself rather lucky to have scored a couple tickets to the Streets and Dizzee Rascal at their second of two sold-out shows at Irving Plaza this week. The performance certainly didn't disappoint. As "the Streets" is just one MC, Mr. Mike Skinner,it was interesting to see that live he chooses to perform with a live three-piece band and a backup singer. The band did a rather impressive job of replicating teh sound of Skinner's studio-crafted tracks and it was entertaining to see how positively at ease Skinner was rattling off his lyrics with total nonchalance.

As the Streets is a band built on the buzz of hipsters, it was odd to be at a certifiable hip-hop show with a 99% white audience, but the crowd got down the best it could. Skinner started his set with "Turn the Page", which he began rapping from off stage. By his third or fourth song he had already sung "Let's Push Things Forward", as the track is definitely his most well known number, it could be argue that he came out too early with his big guns, but it certainly got the crowd going. After the main set the band performed an encore of several numbers (one of which was interrupted by a fairly dramatic fight on the dance floor) and came out for a second encore to end with "Don't Mug Yourself", a favorite of mine that I had feared would go unperformed (like "Sharp Darts", unfortunately.) All in all, it was a pretty great show, enough to please Streets devotees and neophytes.

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