izzylanghamer
27th June 2022

Saint Etienne Live Review: Back with a splash

Izzy Langhamer reviews the latest ‘Saint Etienne’ gig, which saw them perform latest releases from ‘I’ve Been Trying To Tell You’, as well as fan favourites and 90s hits
Saint Etienne Live Review: Back with a splash

Saint Etienne are one of those bands that are constantly, consistently recording and producing new music. Since the release of their fusion-pop debut album Foxbase Alpha back in 1991, they haven’t stopped. Their latest release – I’ve Been Trying To Tell You – is a dreamy, wandering look back to the 90s, the decade that saw the band’s most heady days in the sun. The new album is a kaleidoscopic, nostalgia-driven haze driven by samples from the period and sounds such as birdsong. All of this makes for a sensory, more than a purely audio experience. I was excited to see how this translated into a live performance, particularly considering the album’s more meditative, less overtly poppy feel. 

Before that though, Iriania Mancini took to the stage as the evening’s support. As the crowd began to fill up Mancini delivered a swoony, confident set.

'Foxbase Alpha' by Saint Etienne
Photo: Saint Etienne ‘Foxbase Alpha’ Official Album Art

Her latest single ‘Undo the Blue’ showcased her velvety vocals, whilst other more high-energy songs got the crowd swaying. There were clearly a lot of Saint Etienne mega-fans in the audience (I counted 3 Foxbase Alpha T-shirts) and anticipation built as the crowd grew more excited.

As is standard at many gigs played by this generation of band, the demographic was resolutely middle-aged. This by no means meant it was a sedate affair. Instead, this was one of the most joyful and exuberant audiences I’ve ever been a part of: the whole crowd gave themselves up to the thrum of the music, hands in the air and self-consciousness left at the door. 

The band took to the stage, led by glamorous frontwoman Sarah Cracknell who immediately had the audience enthralled (shouts of ‘We love you Sarah!’ punctuated every song). Wearing her signature feather boa, Cracknell seemed happy to be on stage for the first show of the short new Saint Etienne tour and their first show in Manchester in 5 years. She was joined by Debsy Wykes on vocals, who sang enigmatically and dreamily- occasionally banging on a cowbell! Taking us back in time to ‘Like a Motorway’, we immediately surged headfirst into the thumping heart of woozy 90s nostalgia. ‘Mario’s Cafe’ followed, signaling that the band was able to return to its immense back-catalogue as easily as newer material. 

The set cleverly merged the old and the new, both received with excitable cheers from the audience. Characteristically, the performances brought together the audio and the visual: on the screen behind the band, muscular teens swam, danced, drank and laughed. The band flexed every single one of its musical muscles, bringing out an impressive range of instruments during the course of the set ranging from cowbells to violins to trumpets. 

Saint Etienne perform at the O2 Ritz
Saint Etienne perform at the O2 Ritz – Photo: Izzy Langhamer @ The Mancunion

The biggest cheers of the evening were unreservedly saved for the band’s 90s smash hits. ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ and ‘Spring’ were a delight to listen to, sending the audience into giddy head-bopping spins. ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’ ended the main set, a crowd-pleaser that made you believe the joyful chants of ‘I’ve never felt so good!’ that filled the room as the screen lit up in bright bombastic lettering. 

We were treated to two encores, starting with one of the most interesting and captivating tracks played all night: ‘Her Winter Coat’, a song from their 2021 EP, was accompanied by an entrancing black and white played overhead. This was followed by ‘He’s on the Phone’, another soaring track that kept everyone dancing. Cracknell ended with ‘Avenue’, another song from their hit record ‘So Tough.’ Both her and Wykes ended the set on a high, their vocals merging beautifully together. No wonder then that Saint Etienne don’t show any sign of slowing down. If this exuberant, entrancing show is anything to go by, nothing can stop them now. Their UK tour continues this weekend: information available on http://www.saintetienne.com/.

Izzy Langhamer

Izzy Langhamer

Izzy Langhamer enjoys writing all things Manchester, covering food, drink and music across the city. In her spare time she studies English Literature.

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