Saint Etienne @ O2 Institute Birmingham, 24 November 2021
Saint Etienne features Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Sarah Cracknell. The current tour also showcases five other musicians, not least a fantastic female backing vocalist who also plays the melodica and cowbell. Their sound threads samples through pop, electronic, folk and several other genres. There’s often a slow synth in the mix and a funky bass line or beat.
The band released their first album in the early nineties around the same time the term ‘Britpop’ was coined, and they did feature on the infamous 1993 Select magazine cover introducing the term. They enjoyed some success in the mid-nineties but failed to go on to define the genre. To give you some idea of how big they were back then, last time they played the building now known as the O2 Institute (then known as The Institute Nightclub), they were supported by Oasis…
Saint Etienne opened tonight’s show with ‘Music Again’ from their current album ‘I’ve Been Trying to Tell You’, released in September this year. The album samples tracks from a wide range of other nineties bands – from girl band Honeyz to the Lightening Seeds. They also played ‘Fonteyn’ and ‘Penlop’, which was my personal favourite of the night, building up through a huge crescendo.
From their back catalogue we were treated to songs including ‘Sylvie’, ‘Heart Failed (In the Back of a Taxi)’ and their biggest American success ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ (a Neil Young cover) which topped the US dance chart back in 1990.
Chat from the band included reminiscing past tours, and Sarah asking whether anyone knew the QPR score (we didn’t but someone had googled it for her by the end of the next song). The night started fairly subdued in terms of audience participation, but Etienne got everyone jumping and singing in the end. After all, it’s still a novelty to get out and see live music right now.
For visual effect, the band played a variety of their videos on the screen behind them. We didn’t get to see one of Sarah’s trademark feather boas until the first encore, but she was sporting an on-trend sequin jacket over her all-black outfit.
Speaking of encores, we were lucky enough to have two. The ‘Christmassy in a spooky way’ (Sarah’s own words) ‘Her Winter Coat’, and ‘He’s on the Phone’ making up the first, then ‘Avenue’ to close out the show.
The tour finishes this week, but you can buy or stream new album ‘I’ve Been Trying to Tell You’ now.
1. Music Again
2. Like a Motorway
3. Mario’s Cafe
4. Split Screen
5. Girl VII
6. Magpie Eyes
7. Who Do You Think You Are
8. Heart Failed (In the Back of a Taxi)
12. Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Neil Young cover)
15. Nothing Can Stop Us
16. Her Winter Coat
17. He’s on the Phone
Review: Chrissie Duxson
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