Saint Etienne

Opera House, Toronto, ON, October 24

> > Oct 25 2012

Saint Etienne - Opera House, Toronto, ON, October 24
Photo: Andrea England
By Cam LindsayLondon pop trio Saint Etienne never tasted success in North America the way they have in their homeland. Maybe it's to do with the overt Englishness of their music, but for their first Toronto concert in 10 years, the thin attendance unfortunately made this fact rather obvious.

Still, on the first night of their North American tour in support of their latest album, Words and Music, Pete Wiggs, Bob Stanley and Sarah Cracknell (with Debsey Wykes on backing vocals and vaguely goth dance movements) seemed genuinely excited to be playing the Opera House once again.

Cracknell was every bit the starlet. An ageless beauty at 45, she was decked in a sparkling, sequin sheath and feather boa, radiating elegance even while she sucked back a Steam Whistle. Taking control of the show, the chanteuse stood front and centre, posing, dancing and acting out gestures from the songs while Stanley and Wiggs worked their synths, sequencers and laptops in the dim background.

Perhaps the tour budget was a modest one, but the absence of a live band left the stage looking a bit empty for the four sprawled bodies. On the other hand, the prerecorded tracks suited the band's reputation as a club-friendly act. The remixed versions of songs such as "Sylvie" made the transformation from '60s soft pop to gay disco club anthem not only livelier but more in line with the band's M.O.

While there weren't many of them, the night was all about the fans. The setlist was composed of a nice, career-spanning selection, including six songs from Words and Music. "Like a Motorway," "Nothing Can Stop Us" and "You're in a Bad Way" sounded massive coming from the speakers, giving the show a true club-going feel. Cracknell even tried to drop some Canadian trivia on the audience, stating uncertainly that she believed Neil Young, whose "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" they famously covered, was from the city. (He is.)

When they returned for a two-song encore, Sarah introduced "I've Got Your Music" as Wiggs's song, which led to the only interaction with the producer. She then went on to flub the lyrics, laughing through the chorus but acknowledging her mistake. Closing with the high-energy "He's on the Phone," Saint Etienne left applauding the crowd for kicking off their tour on a high note. The feeling was mutual.

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Cam was that you in the front row during the performance typing this review on his iPhone? Such poor form IMO. I was hoping for a Tori Amos style meltdown from Sarah but of course she was too polite. Sorry if it wasn't you but there were times last night it seemed like the entire front row was heads-down looking at their stupid phones (downright rude) instead of the majestic Ms Cracknell
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Nope, I wasn't in the front row. I did type some notes, but I couldn't look away from Sarah!
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Cheers (and apologies) Cam. Boo to whoever that was though. Know what you mean re Sarah...hard to imagine wanting to watch that on a 4" screen in preference to the real deal! (Was at the New Order gig on the 23rd too - enjoyed both your reviews)
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The only fault I found was with its canned aspect, but that's the pill you swallow for a low-budget tour. I thought the first few songs suffered for it (hands up if you started worrying soon as Debsey's groove-avoidant cowbell trampled all over the mix on "Motorway"), but someone goosed the PA by a few db for the third song and that seemed to solve the problem. Sarah's vocals were generally very good (outright taking flight on "Nothing Can Stop Us"' chorus), and you can't ever argue with how successfully she draws attention to her spot onstage. A lovely natural, that one. Et's forever damned to culty adoration, but they seem satisfied with that: fans and band alike are a pretty smart bunch. We talked with them all at length after the show and they seemed pretty pleased with the opening night. Nice review above, Cam.
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Great show, nice article, but to clarify it was their fifth time in Toronto and its been 10 years not 12.

1994 phoenix
1999 lee's palace
2000 opera house
2002 opera house
2012 opera house

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It will get better once Saint Etienne is "Over the Boarder".....
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Thanks Josh. I tried to find that out but couldn't find the date. I'll fix it.
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