Indie veterans 'improve with age'

Review: Saint Etienne, Uncut Arena, Sunday.

Saint Etienne, Uncut Arena, Sunday.

IT'S been 11 years since I last saw them (at Ipswich Corn Exchange; if memory serves); and they are just as good as they ever were - if not better. For the uninitiated, they were a three-piece, comprising Sarah Cracknell (no relation) Pete Stanley and Bob Wiggs, are named after a Parisian football team, and purvey a delightfully quirky, melodic brand of pop which saw them enjoy hits with, amongst others, You're in a Bad Way, Pale Movie, Bad Photographer and He's on the Phone.

However, they have now acquired an extended repertoire, and are now a four-piece courtesy of a second vocalist (I hesitate to call Debsey Wykes a backing singer, particularly as she also plays keyboards). She does, thankfully, add to the sound rather than detract from it, particularly in respect of the gorgeous Sarah's voice (or should that be Sarah's gorgeous voice? Either is equally true). Some of the vocal duets the two of them enjoyed together put me in mind of the call-and-response harmonies of The Human League from the early 80s.

Perhaps surprisingly, given that the band's strength is usually the subtle nuances of their lyrics, the numbers that seemed to work best were the driving, up-tempo ones such as the recent reworking of Burnt Out Car and Method of Modern Love. Spring and Who Do You Think You Are? also got an airing, but with a set of around half an hour there were always going to be omissions. It would have been nice, for instance, to have heard Hobart Paving and Pale Movie, if only to enjoy the full range of Sarah's angelic vocals. But they did end with a rousing version of He's On The Phone - a marvellous end to my day at Latitude.


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Mike Cracknell

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