Saint Etienne @ The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, 19 Oct
Saint Etienne deliver a faithful rendition of 1994's Tiger Bay as well as all the hits, making for a somewhat fractured show but one that's been plenty earned by this wonderful band
The first half of tonight's performance is a reasonably faithful rendition of the band's fantastic 1994 album Tiger Bay, with an added string section to help augment the orchestral moments. As with all full album shows, what is gained for the completist is lost for the casual fan, and despite the new string flourishes, there's a certain predictability that can sap some of the energy.
The two biggest hits – Hug My Soul and Like a Motorway – come early on, helping to kickstart the evening after the opening instrumental and folky Former Lover. Sarah Cracknell sounds good and dances about the stage with an endearing awkwardness. The mostly impeccable band is occasionally rattled by the lack of one of their multi-instrumentalists due to illness, so there's some false starts and a few “teething problems” as Cracknell puts it.
The loose, instrumental dub of On the Shore sees the singers retire for a moment, confusing much of the audience as they take this for a mini-interval. Pale Movie regains some of the prior momentum, but the haunting Western Wind is the real star of side two, sung with delicate pathos and beautifully complemented by the string section.
After an actual break, the band return ready for the 'hits', signalled as much by Cracknell's feather boa and Debsey Wykes' sequined jacket as anything else. This is where the show really comes into its own, the band looking more at ease as the beats start to pulse and the crowd get moving. The band's first ever single (pre-Cracknell), Only Love Can Break Your Heart, sets the singalong tone, while Mario's Cafe and Tonight make excellent use of the strings, the former basically showcasing the blueprint for Camera Obscura's whole career.
There are wonderful visuals all night, consisting mostly of photos and boomeranged videos from 60s inner-city/suburban England, typifying the wistful mood that the band tend to cultivate. The big final cuts – Nothing Can Stop Us, Ready or Not (Cracknell solo) and He's on the Phone – however, are sheer 90s indulgence, closing the night with heavy doses of wild, flag-waving nostalgia. It's a triumphant end to a somewhat fractured show, but one that's been plenty earned by this wonderful band.