London Kentish Town Forum

Tonight is not an exercise in smarmy self-indulgence, but a celebration of the purest of pop ideals...

The Saint come marching in. They play 'Nothing Can Stop Us' and it's funky, it's got flutes, and it's a totally awesome pop song. There's nothing even remotely ironic about that.

The evil 'I' word continues to haunt St. Etienne. Their enemies in the realm of serious rock would have it that they are little more than a Farsifa-fixated, Pet Shop Boys pastiche in posh clubwear. A nasty, soulless, perfect pop machine so two-dimensional they could be on the set of EastEnders. Inevitably, that's absolute rubbish. Tonight is not an exercise in smarmy self-indulgence, but a celebration of the purest of pop ideals. If you can't see the wide-eyed love that goes into producing the lush 'Avenue' or the sprightly 'Split Screen', then truly you have a black box recorder where your heart should be.

Certainly, this is manufactured music and St. Etienne's songs are so steeped in musical history that there are occasions - like the join-the-dots Abba-isms of 'I Was Born On Christmas Day' - when they can seem to be trying too hard. Even then, though, their masterful command of melody just about sees them through. Indeed, as they reach critical mass shortly after Sarah Cracknell starts dancing in time, you can forgive them all their transgressions. 'Sylvie' and the stunning 'He's On The Phone' are a stellar amalgamation of handbag house and Bacharachian pop aesthetics.

They play the Teutonic 'Like A Motorway' and saunter off. Tonight, they have proved again that they are not tired cynics, but consummate showmen. They go marching on. Salute them as they pass.

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