ABC, Glasgow, Wed 13 May
It’s customary these days, upon the release of a band’s greatest hits collection, to ask if they’re splitting up. Having brought out London Conversations last year, Sarah Cracknell gets the denial out of the way early: ‘I know it’s a funny message to send out, but it clearly wasn’t what was happening last time either, having gone on for another ten or eleven years.
‘There’s a neatness about it, though, a tidying-up. It appeals to the collectory vibe within the band, and it feels good when you get to the cut and realise you have a body of work to be proud of.’ To prove the point, this tour will feature them performing their debut album Foxbase Alpha in its entirety.
In truth, Saint Etienne’s albums of the 2000s, the last being 2005’s Tales From Turnpike House, have played best with a smaller but fanatically dedicated audience, rather than those who recall their populist 90s heyday of ‘He’s On the Phone’ and ‘You’re in a Bad Way’. Yet their understanding of and love for what actually makes great pop hasn’t dimmed; London Conversations features new and remixed productions from Xenomania and Richard X.
With Bob Stanley in North London, Pete Wiggs in Hove and Cracknell with her young family in Oxfordshire it’s easy to suggest that they’re in semi-retirement. ‘No,’ replies Cracknell firmly, ‘this isn’t a part-time thing. Obviously it’s not as important as my kids, but it is important to be in this gang and doing stuff with them. It’s my other home; it’s what keeps me happy.’