Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Memories of 2017 gigs #4

Saint Etienne
Tramshed, Cardiff - 5 June 2017

This show was supposed to have taken place on Saturday evening, but there was some little football match going on in town apparently and this presented some logistical issues which forced a postponement. Of course, in any sane world the football should have moved to accommodate Saint Etienne, but I understand one or two people were quite interested in the game and one of the players was a local fella...

Anyway, come Monday evening and I wasn't in a good place. I'd had a shit day at work and got home in a foul mood. Add to that the god-awful weather, I just didn't feel like going out. I actually came very close to staying in and moping, in fact. In the end, I saw sense.

Since purchasing the 12" of Only Love Can Break Your Heart waaaay back in 1990, I'd never actually caught Saint Etienne live, though there was a near-miss at Glastonbury Festival in 1994. I'd decided I was going to make it over to the main stage to watch their set. But after a few hours of traipsing around the site in close to 30-degree heat whilst drinking cold beer and warm cider, I dozed off in the sunshine just outside my tent. I only came-to when my mate Higgz returned, gave me a friendly kick and told me Saint Etienne were on. He subsequently collapsed with laughter as he observed my face, now as red as a lobster except for where my sunglasses had been. I was too embarrased to leave the tent for the rest of the afternoon...

So a rather warm Tramshed was going to be my first time. MrsRobster has been suffering for a few weeks with sciatica and back pain so was understandably in some discomfort for much of the night. She took her mind of it by engaging in one of her favourite pasttimes - people watching. One key observation was how the average height of male Saint Etienne fans is generally short. True enough, there was a considerable lack of tall people there. No bad thing of course - they usually stand directly in front of me at gigs.

In the live setting, Saint Etienne field a much-expanded line-up. In addition to the trio of Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, they were joined by a drummer, keyboardist, the obligatory multi-instrumentalist and, of course, trusty co-singer Debsy. And then there was Cardiff boy Carwyn Ellis (aka Colorama) who guested on guitar for a few tracks. (As Carwyn left the stage, Sarah noted: "So we're back down to a 1-2-3-4-5-6... 7 piece. Oh I can't count tonight, I'm too hot." To which a lone male voice uttered from the crowd: "Yes, you are." Nearly every straight guy in the audience chuckled in secret agreement. Sarah giggled; MrsRobster rolled her eyes...)

The set took a little while to get going. In fact, MrsRobster reckons they could have dumped the first quarter of the set and it would have been an improvement. Things got going for me with the double-whammy of new album highlight Take It All In and the wonderful Sarah-Debsy duet Who Do You Think You Are? which was, quite frankly, gorgeous.

A number of songs from the new record 'Home Counties' were aired. Aside from Take It All In, highlights included Magpie Eyes, Train Drivers In Eyeliner and Dive. But it was the oldies, of course, that delighted the crowd most. You're In A Bad Way, She's On The Phone and Tonight were among those that shone brightest. Perhaps predictably, the biggest cheer was reserved for Only Love Can Break Your Heart which prompted a mass singlaong, rightly described by Sarah as "rousing".

So after a shitty day in shitty weather, Saint Etienne ultimately triumphed in making me warm and happy, and with the state of the world right now, we could all do with feeling like that as often as we can. I'm off to play 'So Tough' loudly...


  1. I'm another who has a real soft spot for Saint Etienne but never got round to seeing them live.

    Nice review. Kind of makes me want to get along and see them but not sure, given that, like so many other 'vintage' acts nowadays, the ticket price would be high I'm not sure about it.

    Carwyn Ellis will always be revered in Villain Towers for the way he has been a rock to Edwyn Collins as the latter has recovered from his illnesses.

  2. Ah, one of the bands that will be in the grave with you. Haven't bought Home Counties yet, but it's on the list. Way to turn around a crappy day. Sarah looks gorgeous in all of the new promo photos, as usual.

  3. Stumbled across this site whilst looking for reviews of Saint Etienne on Monday night. Fantastic stuff and enjoyed reliving a few Cardiff gigs I've been to over the years. Cheers.
    Oh Yeh Monday night was good, I was never a true fan but was always curious to see them. Really enjoyed the live set-up and thought they put a lot of thought and effort into their live performance. Whilst not completely a fanboy I did enjoy it and I also remarked to my mate about the lack of tall people!
    Anyway I'll attempt to read more of your musical thoughts later.