LIVE REVIEW: Saint Etienne @ Sage Gateshead (18.10.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Following live anniversary outings for Foxbase Alpha and Good Humor, Sarah, Pete and Bob celebrated their ambitious meisterwerk album, Tiger Bay, with a sold out show at London’s Barbican back in May. The show, featuring Debsey (of course), the regular touring band, plus the London Contemporary Orchestra, producer Ian Catt and vocalists Etienne Daho and Sewuese Smith, gave the album the lush live treatment it warranted. Such was the ecstatic response to this one off performance; several UK dates were hurriedly announced.  Having been in the audience that evening, I was very eager to see the show in the aurally exquisite surroundings of Sage Gateshead

The motorik oscillations of opener Urban Clearway sets the tone, coming on like a Barry White produced Kraftwerk, the addition of live strings – provided this evening by sublime quintet, Dirty Pretty Strings – exposing  the intricate layering of the track, and is a blissful and beautiful beginning. A delightfully delicate Former Lover is followed by the wonderfully jubilant, Hug My Soul, the Love Unlimited Orchestra strings particularly immense this evening. Like A Motorway continues to sound every inch the gargantuan number one hit it should have been, whilst the heavy digital dub of On the Shore has the Sage wholly mesmerised.  An absolutely fabulous trek through Pale Movie and the sweeping and superb Cool Kids of Death punctuates a heartbreaking and icy Marble Lions, Western Wind/Tankerville and Boy Scouts of America, demonstrating just how far Tiger Bay pulled Saint Etienne from their kitsch and cool pop band axis.

After a short break, they return for a selection of their greatest moments. The audience, enthusiastic throughout the first half but firmly routed to their seats, begin shuffling during Magpie Eyes and finally take to their feet on mass for a bass-heavy bounce through Only Love Will Break Your Heart, and (thankfully) remain standing for tremendous renditions of Mario’s Cafe, Who Do You Think You Are, a rhapsodic Tonight, and stonking set closer  Nothing Can Stop Us Now.  A spellbinding Ready or Not, complete with excerpts from the Paul Kelly directed film How We Used to Live, and the perfect pop of She’s on the Phone leave the crowd utterly enraptured.

Rather than feeling like some abhorrent Hacienda Strings nostalgia fest, the evening felt celebratory and a perfect way to doff the cap to a career highlight album from a special and truly unique group.

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