Saint Etienne, the indie-synth dance-pop trio of the early 90s returned to Sage, Gateshead in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Tiger Bay – their third studio album.
This was not to be just an ordinary celebration though, this was Tiger Bay with a live orchestra; Dirty Pretty Strings to be exact, who open this special night with their rendition of Urban Clearway. Oh yes, this was going to be a spectacular evening especially when you see the venues chosen for this tour and Sage, home of the Royal Northern Sinfonia representing the North East leg.
The trio of Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Sarah Cracknell along with their long term (backing) vocalist Debsy arrive stage left to play out the rest of Tiger Bay. Sarah Cracknell, as always interacts with the crowd for the band and if I am honest, it was a pretty hard crowd to crack as they were dumbstruck with the grandeur of their surroundings and a string quartet.
Sarah’s vocals with the support of Debsey is always a joy and the sounds mixed by Bob and Pete with accompanying band takes you back to a time of when acid house was making waves. I must admit I was one of those ‘dumbfounded’ audience members. Hearing the strings and seeing them performed alongside the synth-pop sounds was nothing short of beautiful and when the lights mixed up and did their thing it was like a dream.
Tiger Bay in full and celebrated this way may take some getting used to for some but it is the best way with highlights being Hug My Soul and Like A Motorway with Pale Movie and Cool Kids Of Death getting some of the audience up on their feet with Sarah’s nod of approval. And shout out to Debsey as always busting a move or two. However, it is Marble Lions that tugs on the heartstrings and admittedly tears were at the ready for the lights were probably most in sync with the orchestra and Sarah’s vocals on top was just so magical.
After a short interval, we are back to celebrate the other much-loved music of Saint Etienne. After getting warmed up with Lose That Girl and Magpie Eyes, we get the much loved Only Love Can Break Your Heart and every single person is on their feet and just how a Saint Etienne gig should be – orchestra or not.
Keeping everyone on their toes they exit the stage with Nothing Can Stop Us Now leaving us feeling that the night should carry on. And thankfully that happened as they return and we get the wonderful Ready Or Not from Sarah’s solo efforts from her album Lipslide before they round off the night with He’s On The Phone, which in the words of the song Lose That Girl, “turn the disco down!”
Words and Photos: Victoria Wai