There is something particularly English - in fact, quintessentially London - about Saint Etienne. Performing what was, pretty much, a greatest hits packed set for their Christmas gig at the Kentish Town Forum on Saturday night, the band certainly looked and sounded like they were home.
To say that they are among the most riveting live performers that there ever were would be testing the truth-tether a bit. However, the band certainly more than make up for their a-tad-on-the-sedate-side stage presence with an unmistakable connection with their audience and the ability effortlessly to remind one of the sheer brilliance of their song-writing and production.
From the subtle and faithful updating of some of their back-catalogue (exhibit A: Foxbase Alpha album track, "Girl VII") to the taste-making, double-chorused, "DJ" (a teaser from their next album), Saint Etienne glided through some of the best quality pop moments of the past twenty years, including gems like “Who Do You Think You Are” (with Debsey Wykes), the Richard X-produced “Method Of Modern Love”, "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", “Like A Motorway” and “He’s On The Phone”. Conspicuously missing was "You're In A Bad Way" but, hey ho, one can't have it all.
It boggles the mind that Saint Etienne have never scored their own top 10 in the UK charts and, hearing some of their strongest singles during this show, you could not help but wonder at that unfairness.
Yet, the band’s fanbase is by no means small and its admiration of and loyalty to Bob, Pete and Sarah are equally reciprocated by the trio, who have just released a fan-only Christmas album. Titled “A Glimpse Of Stocking”, the album includes, among some fantastic new seasonal offerings, Saint Etienne’s 90s classic Christmas duet with Tim Burgess, “I Was Born On Christmas Day”. This also happened to be the closing number to a show which was very much an early tiding of comfort and joy.