Traffic patterns were confusing at the Streets show Wednesday night at Avalon.
During an uneven, sometimes sloppy but ultimately entertaining 75 - minute set, Brit rapper Mike Skinner -- also known as the Streets -- and his band ping-ponged from brilliant to bizarre, sometimes within the space of one tune.
Skinner's new album, ``The Hardest Way to Make An Easy Living ," contains some less-than-riveting bellyaching about the pitfalls of the fame he's earned since rapping about smoking dope and being on the dole on 2002's brash ``Original Pirate Material ." But Wednesday he was in loose, good spirits, drinking in the love of a sold-out, all-ages crowd as well as enjoying some onstage shots.
Opening with the stuttering beat of ``Prangin Out" Skinner loped across the stage -- incongruously decorated with a cheesy tropical backdrop -- spitting his fast-paced ``grime" rhymes and clowning with partner/hype man Leo the Lion .
With his strong, soulful voice and sweet falsetto belting out the neat choruses to Skinner's spare tracks -- played with island flavor by the three-piece Jenkins Brothers -- Leo nearly stole the show.
But it's to Skinner's credit that he wasn't afraid of Leo's contributions, the occasionally throbbing disco beat, or the exposure of his vulnerable side. Some of the night's best tunes were ballads where the pair worked in tandem, with Skinner contemplating a break up (``Dry Your Eyes" ) or romantic temptation (``All Goes Out the Window" ) with his cascading, word-stuffed flow as Leo sweetly sang the choruses.
Strange asides, like a raunchy reworking of the Pussycat Dolls ' ``Don't Cha" and the repeated bursts into the ``oh-oh-oh oh-oh" chorus of the New Kids on the Block hit ``The Right Stuff," started out comic but became irritating, especially when a New Kids outburst came at the end of one of the set's most dark and atmospheric songs, ``Turn the Page." It punctuated with quizzical smiley face what had been a dramatic and sincerely emotional moment in a song filled with bleak images of war, tears, and confusion.
Opener Lady Sovereign , signed to Def Jam by Jay-Z himself, was all attitude and cheeky charm during her 30-minute opening set. Songs veered between the flat, dry grooves of ``Ch Ching" and the bigger bottom end of the newer ``Love Me or Hate Me." All of it was topped off by her rapid - fire, working - class rhymes.