GIG REVIEW: Saint Etienne at SWX, Bristol: 8 December 2017

WORTH A LOOK?: ***1/2

WHERE: SWX, Bristol

WHEN: 8/12, tour runs to 10/12

SETLIST: Kiss And Make Up; Lose That Girl; Out Of My Mind; I’ve Got Your Music; Who Do You Think You Are; Hug My Soul; Magpie Eyes; Don’t Intend To Spend Christmas Alone; Like A Motorway; Dive; Only Love Can Break Your Heart; Tonight; Nothing Can Stop Us Now; Sylvie; He’s On the Phone; Driving Home For Christmas; Train Drivers In Eyeliner; I Was Born On Christmas Day

We’ve shortlisted new Saint Etienne album Home Counties for a monsta for album of the year.

  • Read on for reasons including why we would’ve liked to hear more Home Counties

At a time when vintage acts devote whole tours to a classic album from their back catalogue and years gone by, we’re disappointed to report that the Ets’ latest long player barely merited a look-in here.

Had we been writing this blog in 2012, Saint Etienne’s London Palladium show would’ve been our gig of that year.

The songs featured here from that year’s collection Words And Music, synth pop gems Tonight and I’ve Got Your Music, are reminders perhaps that despite a history going back to the early 90s, all the band’s glories need not be rooted so far back in yesteryear.

They’re a band so thoroughly enjoying revelling in the past (we love the camp 60s TV clips augmenting Lose That Girl, for example), they sometimes appear to forget that living in the moment is sometimes as thrilling. It is the subject matter for Tonight after all.

We’ve seen at least one Saint Etienne Christmas tour before, at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in the 00s we think, and when you’ve such a classic as I Was Born On Christmas Day in your cannon, why not?

But we’re yearning for the seven-minute spoken word post-Brexit heartbreak of Sweet Arcadia and Northern soul stomp of Underneath The Apple Tree from Home Counties, neither of which feature here.

Instead we have kitsch cover I Don’t Intend to Spend Christmas Without You which works much better than Driving Home For Christmas which leaves lead singer Sarah Cracknell’s voice exposed.

These days backing singer Debsey is so upfront that she and Sarah are almost a vocal duo not least during  the classic pop rush of Who Do You Think You Are, an early highlight.

Perhaps Home Counties will enjoy a more thorough airing at a later tour? It’s no less than it deserves.

  • Picture by Neil Durham. Tickets
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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