Sitting on Karl-Marx-Straße, arguably one of the busiest roads in Neukölln, is Heimathafen – a people’s theatre that directly translates to “home port”. Despite its entrance facing a torrent of noise and movement, the venue still remains quietly tucked away, as if to remain anonymous, no matter what.
Tonight, it’s the scene for The Streets’ first-ever live date after a seven-year hiatus, and it’s hard not to draw parallels between the two: both have always been in exposed in plain view, yet somehow remained private; both are grandiose in theory, but understated in practice; both were borne out of a need to serve and be served.
It’s been nearly 25 years since Mike Skinner started The Streets, and his music remains more relevant than ever. Their first record, Original Pirate Material, is a collection of genre-bending songs celebrating the mundane corners of British existence and the oddities that characterised it – being skint, getting too drunk, falling in love, smoking spliffs, getting dumped, going to the chip shop. The songs managed to sound unlike anything you’d ever heard before, yet they felt completely familiar at the same time. He became the unspoken leader for the stuck-in-the-middle people of our generation, looking for comfort in the form of reliving the intimate, possibly overlooked moments of their adolescence.
As Skinner walked onstage to the broken beats of Turn the Page, he made a point to tell the crowd that “the world has changed a lot, but I haven’t fucking changed”. This disclaimer set the tone for the show: whatever it was we were in store for, it was going to be sincere. And it was. What followed was a slow-burning greatest hits set spanning across all five of his studio albums, including lo-fi, house-tinged bops Weak Become Heroes and It’s Too Late; pill anthem Blinded by the Lights; and set closer Fit But You Know It, during which Skinner started a circle pit and jumped into the crowd. Throughout, his deadpan, almost toneless vocals still sounded as blunt as they did on record all those years ago; they still comfort you like the smell of your nan’s house or a hug from a mate.
As the show came to a close, Mike Skinner thanked the crowd for sharing this moment with him, making for the most intimate moment of the night. It had been a long time coming, but like everything he does, it wasn’t rushed – pacing is key. The unique way he has approached boredom, conflict and heartbreak through his music is done with a quietude that encourages you to take a step back and breathe. And that’s the magic of The Streets – even when they’re taking you down the darkest roads, they still manage to guide you with a flickering light.