Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Saint Etienne Are Sweet but Short at the Bowery Ballroom


Can't overstate what a blast Damian and I had at the Saint Etienne show Monday night at Bowery Ballroom, the same place where I first saw the synth trio live 19 years ago with my friend Ken shortly after moving to New York City. ("Good Humor" and "Celebrity Skin" were my NYC move albums!) Unlike their last tour back in 2012 (when they played Webster Hall), they brought a full band and backing vocalist -- none other than Debsey Wykes of Dolly Mixture fame, who sang co-lead on "Who Do You Think You Are?" back in 1993 -- so had a fuller sound, complete with violins and wind instruments. 


Now with most bands I have a strong wish list of songs I want to hear, But with Saint Etienne, I'm pretty much ecstatic with their performing any of the 400-plus tracks they've recorded since 1990. (If they came out and did "The Misadventures of Saint Etienne" from start to finish I'd swoon!) 


Sarah Cracknell was in usual fine form, with her trademark blond locks and minimal movement and intermittent boa. 


 Bob Stanley, left, and Pete Wiggs too were very "Bob and Pete" -- steering as far away from the spotlight as possible (literally standing in the back) as they methodically played their synthesizers still seemingly in awe of how much people still adore everything they come up with. 


Although they could do no wrong in my book, they cooked up an impressive set list that included their first three singles -- including the two Sarah hadn't been the vocalist on (always great to hear her take on "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "Kiss and Make Up") -- five songs from their brilliant new LP, "Home Counties," plus favorite singles and a low-key "Threw It All Away" during the encore. I was beaming the whole night, especially thrilled to hear "Like a Motorway" and "Whyteleafe," which was Damian's and my U.K. theme song.) Sarah introduced "Dive" as kind of being their new single, noting that it was No. 1 on the vinyl singles chart. ("I think that means it's sold three copies," she joked.) Not counting the obnoxious trio who Fraggle-Rocked their way directly in front of us midway through the show -- this was a rare occasion that I made a point of being up front, so Damian discreetly used "sharp elbows" to scare the shortest of them off, and her giant friends got the hint and moved behind me -- the only disappointment was that they came on 54 minutes late. Now a middle-aged band starting at 9:54 instead of 9 p.m. might sound like standard operating procedure, until you remember that New York City has this ridiculous "music curfew" that requires concerts to stop at 11 p.m. As a result, the band had to scrap a handful of songs that they had played the previous night in Boston, all of which would have been greatly appreciated by the sellout crowd that waited five years to see them live again. Until we meet again, Sarah, Bob and Pete, I will continue to look for YouTube clips of the missing pieces of our night in heaven, including a mashup of "Pale Movie" and "I've Got Your Music," "Split Screen," "Stop and Think It Over" (my FAVORITE song on "Finisterre," goddamnit!) and "You're in a Bad Way," which I kind of was when the lights came up so quickly!



UPDATE:


Forgot to mention that the opening act -- a duo called Pavo Pavo that appears to have been a five-piece at one time -- was delightful. They may look like a "Portlandia" sketch (by way of Brooklyn). But Eliza Bagg's angelic voice and utter lack of stage presence is adorable, and Oliver Hill seems like a consummate pro. Their ethereal pop ditties were the perfect way to ease us into the night. Learn more HERE.

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