Sunday, 11 June 2017

Saint Etienne

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
Four stars

“This is dedicated to Theresa May.” These aren't the sort of words you'd expect to hear at a Saint Etienne concert, especially given that singer Sarah Cracknell is sporting a feather boa and introducing the band's well worn cover of 1970s bubblegum hit Who Do You Think You Are? Touring on the back of their just released Home Counties album, the band's core trio of Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs remain a contrarily conceptualist bunch. An expanded eight-piece line-up troops onstage following a series of floridly fonted village notices beamed behind them. These are localised to include 'We Miss Josef K' and the Hue and Cry referencing 'Winthrop My Baby' (think about it).

The opening Kiss and Make Up conjures up ghosts of indie discos past in a a set that pitches an impeccable electro-pop pastoralist back catalogue alongside brand new nuggets. This allows the Euro-fizz of I've Got Your Music and Telstar keyboards of You're in a Bad Way to nestle next to the harpsichord-led Whyteleafe. During the joyous Magpie Eyes, images of Stevenage new town flash up, while Cracknell and long term vocal foil Debsey Whykes shimmy their way through the organ break.

With Stanley and Wiggs overseeing proceedings from behind a table load of electronic kit at the back of the stage, studio constructed samples are fleshed out by live flute and violin. The latin fiesta of Dive and motorik folk of Like A Motorway give an internationalist edge to Saint Etienne's sound of the suburbs. As does a final projection following a euphoric He's on the Phone. 'For the many, not not the few' it reads, a pop manifesto for our times.

 
The Herald, July 12th 2017

ends

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