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Saint Etienne, Queens Hall, Edinburgh

  • Published in Live


My sidekick and I rocked up to the show just as the opening act Kero Kero Bonito jumped on to the stage. At this point, we were small in number. If you wanted to breakdance some sick moves or perform a line dance, you had plenty of room to do so. Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled worked their magic behind keyboards and samplers then a blast of blue hair popped into the scene. Meet Sarah Midori Perry. The Irn Bru-fuelled trio energetically brought their flavour of electro and J-pop to Edinburgh. KKB were a happy listen and fun to watch as they talked into pink plastic phones, played with a pink flamingo and bedecked their machines with soft toys. If I had a teenage daughter, I would direct my child to their cotton candy music. Perhaps I might just do that with my three year old one. The crowd were kinda digging it although I think an audience made of teens and 20-somethings would have been doing more than nodding their heads.

As the minutes ticked closer to Saint Etienne gracing us with their presence, the hall became jam packed with punters, at least 80% of which were men. I wasn’t expecting so few women. My comadre and I had to squeeze ourselves to the front of the stage so I could snap a photo worthy of this review. 

And there they were, the core band of Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs plus five additions. Sarah Cracknell grabbed the mic. ‘We are Saint Etienne and you are fabulous.’ Oh shut it, girl, we adored you on first sight. Ready. Set …

People are already dancing two chords into the first song, 'Kiss And Make Up'. Cue big, happy woops from the audience. We’d really like to dance but are confined to muscle spasm-like movements due to the cramped space. They certainly know what we want and boy do they deliver. 'You’re In A Bad Way' follows. We are then introduced to their shiny new stuff by way of 'Whyteleaf', a world reimagined if David Bowie had not done what he did and had lived a life somewhat less extraordinary. The screen is lit up with visions of Stevenage. It looks familiar, but no, I’ve never been. I’ll just say ‘new town’ and you get what I mean.  

Cracknell further endears herself to the crowd when she introduces 'Who Do You Think You Are' with the statement “I’m going to dedicate this next song to Teresa May.”

It’s so clear. We love the band. 

My plus one has declared that Debsey Wykes - with her severe fringe and heavily eye linered eyes - is her new style icon. The crowd goes wild for 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' with Wykes on melodica. After seeing the keyboard mouth organ in action, who wouldn’t want one? I wonder if the sales of these increase every time the band tours. 

The next song is like having cold water splashed all over the audience; not that it isn’t good, but after the excitement of that last encounter, I think we all need cooling down with something more sedate. We are not left to rest for long as 'I’ve Never Felt So Good' brings us back to life. We are blissed out of our tiny little minds. The band continue to mix in their new numbers with former creations, each song segueing beautifully into the next.

A Brutalist architecture and postcards circa '60s something montage projects onto the screen when 'He’s On The Phone' plays to our ecstatic approval.  Are they ending this on a high? I would have expected nothing less.

And then Cracknell gave her white fluffy boa to a tattooed punk guy who was singing along to all the songs. I’m sure that made his year. This gig totally made mine.


Saint Etienne - Home Counties

  • Published in Albums


What is it about Saint Etienne that makes me think of long drawn out sunny Sunday afternoons? Fancy something light and airy, a backdrop to the sunshine? Their music is made for moments such as these. 

Listening to Home Counties feels like looking at a group of people; let’s say at a garden party. Imagine the scene peopled with characters you can expect to bump into on a packed out commuter train to London - a frazzled, shell shocked mother of two under five, that Barbour jacketed guy loitering outside a high-end food shop, or that couple you met that one time at a quiz night in the local pub.

So, without further ado, drink in hand (Victorian Lemonade if you’re driving home after or Peroni if you’re not) let’s get this shindig started.

‘Something New’ eases you nicely into the mix, so clearly them, it’s like seeing a likable acquaintance across the moulded plastic furniture scattered lawn. With 'Magpie Eyes' I was dropped off somewhere in the '80s and thought I spied Molly Ringwald’s flaming red hair and scowl a la Breakfast Club. For a while you’re floating, until 'Dive' hits; it’ll get you shaking. Sexy guitars are funking up the place and you can’t help but move it. Careful love, or you’ll spill your drink.

The music floats around the decades. Funk? Disco? I’m a child of the '80s and am picking up tones of…Wait. Did I say decades? Scratch that. This takes in the breadth of centuries when that choir and harp enter in ‘Church Pew Furniture Restorer.’ 

Compared to some of their previous offerings, there are juicier bits in here, something to grab on to instead of the kind of tunes that drift on by, hardly noticed. It’s odd as you can’t quite figure out where this party is going to take you. In some way, you feel you are led to snootily look down your nose on the people here, yet there is sympathy in the observations. It’s easy to get into their heads, especially in ‘Take It All In’ which gently asks you to look at the long view and the beauty around you, when life has done that ugly thing of not turning out as you had hoped it might. The album carries on much the same, quick introductions, then you turn around and eavesdrop on another guest who has just entered the scene.

Saint Etienne have taken their previous examples of writing people into song and have built up this entire album around a cast of plausible characters. They certainly like their snapshots of everyday people getting on with the business of living. There is something rather comforting about these observations and the music soundtracking this scene evoked.

Home Counties is available from amazon & iTunes.

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