The first band ever to be televised at Glastonbury, indie-dance trio Saint Etienne made their return to Somerset last month to make a triumphant reappearance at the world’s largest music festival, on the Park Stage. Hebden Bridge’s acclaimed venue, the Trades Club was treated to an intimate warm-up show two days previous.
After Glasgow trio Babe had warmed the sold-out crowd up nicely with their atmospheric electropop, Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs casually strolled onto the stage to rapturous applause. The Trades has been treated to two Saint Etienne shows in the space of 12 months; the previous show being a celebration of their debut album, Foxbase Alpha, this second show spanned their entire 26 year-long career.
Stanley and Wiggs, concealed behind a profusion of samplers, synths and laptops, let Cracknell do the talking as she explained the band’s love of the small Yorkshire town, which remains a hub for creativity and art, before launching into a sterling rendition of Lose That Girl from the band’s fourth album, Good Humor.
After Girl VII from Foxbase Alpha, a concurrent trio of tracks from their 1994 album Tiger Bay followed, with Hug My Soul and Like A Motorway creating a particular buzz within the audience.
Tonight, the single from their last studio album was warmly received, as was a brand new track, Dive. There were soon excited whispers within the 200-strong crowd when the recording of a new LP was hinted at by Cracknell.
Forever a feel-good band, tracks like You’re In a Bad Way and Join Our Club created an atmosphere of naïve joy. This vibe was particularly poignant in light of the referendum result coming through that very day; after a false start into Only Love Can Break Your Heart, even Cracknell, who had vowed not to raise the issue, expressed how the result had disheartened her.
Any joviality lost due to the mention of the referendum was soon restored for the only encore song of the night, the top-ten hit He’s on the Phone. Clad in her trademark feather boa, Cracknell whipped the audience into a feathered frenzy, even offering the microphone out into the crowd to let the stalwarts at the front take the lead towards the end of the song.
A cheerful evening, courtesy of one of the quirkiest bands in British music, who almost three decades on are still remembering to give pop music a good, healthy dose of fun.