Saint Etienne / Go Kart Mozart

London Bloomsbury Theatre 15th May 2009
Featured Artists: Go Kart Mozart Saint Etienne

The Bloomsbury Ballroom is a gorgeous venue that seems perfect for tonight’s show, a palpable air of expectation emanating from the capacity audience, many of them movers and shakers from back in the heady days of the Balearic era.

Then He takes to the stage, the denim now faded, dressed now instead in a black leather tassel jacket, no longer on ice, the word ‘KILL’ emblazoned upon his back in high definition silver stud work. His baseball cap is pulled down low, a perspex visor shading dark eyes.

He is Lawrence, super-brain and perpetual outsider responsible for records by Felt, Denim and latterly, Go Kart Mozart, the agit-pop band for the Life on Mars generation. Lawrence is a man simultaneously of, and yet out of time, lost in space like Bowie’s disaffected astronaut, he could easily be John Simm as Sam Tyler.

Tonight Lawrence is monosyllabic, nonchalant, coolly aloof and yet ready to unleash pure rock `n` roll at a second’s notice. Now ably assisted by one ex-Buzzcoc and another ex-Primal, each of them bringing an air of theatricality to the proceedings which is quite at odds with Lawrence’s on-stage sedentary stance.

And yet visually, it works to stunning effect, never more so than on songs like `Drinking Um Bongo`, `Listening To Marmalade` and the gorgeously melodic and totally uplifting, `Glorious Chorus`.

They end with an apparently ironic tribute to rock n roll’s own Jean Harlow in the shape of a blistering version of `Wendy James`. On tonight’s evidence Lawrence is back, and even though it may not be in denim, it takes a certain aesthetic indifference to wear a leather jacket like that in this day and age, a wizard performance by a true star.

And now Ladies and gentleman, this is what you’ve been waiting for…

Saint Etienne`s Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley appear to an all too familiar fanfare, taking up their positions, stage left and right respectively. Their faces are partially illuminated by laptop screens as a montage of black and white film footage is interspersed with all your favourite kids TV Programs circa 1970, cut - up and recontextualized in an hallucinogenic display of ultra vivid colour.

Meanwhile, a white lab-coated technician makes intermittent appearances upon the stage, as if conducting a lesson in alchemical pop 101.

Tonight’s show is a celebratory affair due to the re-release of their classic, `Fox Base Alpha`, still a defining moment in Britain’s poptastic cultural heritage which sounds as fresh today as it did 18 years ago.

Part Trinians schoolgirl, part MILF, Sarah Cracknell is a modern day Jane Birkin, effortlessly eluding charisma throughout the band`s performance. Cracknell truly is the heart and soul of the band, her warm, intimate voice, projecting a pure pop thrill, as the band pump out a metronomic groove, coming over like Kraftwerk on the Croydon autobahn by way of the last night bus.

The highlights are mostly what you’d expect, a fantastic opening of `Only Love Can Break Your Heart`, a psychedelic dub version of `Carnt Sleep` and a heart-stopping rendition of the number one single that never was - `Spring`. Best of all is a totally toe-tapping performance of `Nothing Can Stop Us` - arguably still their defining pop music moment.

There were psychic emanations aplenty, whizzing backwards and forwards, all of them good vibes. Radiating positivity, this is pop music as populist entertainment and communal catharsis. We should cherish Saint Etienne now more than ever, as we may never see their like again.

Posted on 19 May 2009 by Keith Haworth

Taken from Etienne / Go Kart Mozart