LIVE REVIEW: Saint Etienne @ Fire Station, Sunderland (10.06.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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A lot has happened since Saint Etienne were last live on a North East stage; most notably, of course was the pandemic, which shook our way of life to its foundations. The adage of you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone was never more on point.

As the mesmerising Moroder bass of Like A Motorway bathes the near capacity Fire Station crowd in a delicious disco sparkle, Pete, Bob and Sarah are warmly welcomed back like the national treasures they most definitely are. Flanked by their regular – and always exceptional – five-piece band, and or course, the wonderful Debsey Wykes, we’re very swiftly reminded just how great Saint Etienne continue to be.

Avoiding the easy route of a greatest hits singles tour, the song selections that make up the near 90-minute set are a real melting pot of big hitters and deep cuts, all of which demonstrate the sheer brilliance and breadth of their back catalogue: Mario’s Café and Girl IV glimmer and groove with a London sheen so deep you can almost smell the smog of Notting Hill tube station, the simply gorgeous Fonteyn – from their frankly phenomenal latest album I’ve Been Trying To Tell You – pulses with a hypnotic wooziness, the majestic Who Do You Think You Are? – complete with false start- positively vibrates with silver screen sass, Heart Failed (In The Back Of A Taxi) ratchets the perfect pop-o-meter to 11, and Magpie Eyes, played in front of a Friday night Sunderland crowd is either brave, bold or brazen…Sarah’s little wink to the band halfway through the track suggest the latter…it takes a stonking bass-heavy slam through Only Love Can Break Your Heart to finally shake the majority of the crowd up from their seated stupor, a relieved Cracknell exclaims “That’s better! You can stand up and you can dance, I’ve checked with security”.

They conclude the main set with an impeccable triumvirate of tunes that quite simply, take the roof off: the pop meisterwork Tonight, complete with hiNRG woo-woo chorus, is electro Ronettes, Sylvie wraps the kitchen sink sadness of Poor Cow in a Lamont Dozier dazzle, and Nothing Can Stop Us Now – a track so good that it was even covered by pop princess Kylie Minogue – is technicolour positivity, a hip-house hands in the air anthem for future days.

They return for a mesmerising run through Her Winter Coat, a beautifully brooding and delicate spoken word piece punctuated with icy monochrome visuals courtesy of filmmaker Alasdair McLellan, sadly spoiled by the incessant chatter of large sections of the crowd, the handbag house fan favourite He’s On The Phone, and the majestic 1992 single Avenue, filling the auditorium with seven blissful minutes of reverb heavy counterpoint vocals and Spector in space production. It’s a truly glorious end to a staggeringly good set…my god, how we’ve missed them…

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