Saint Motel have had many a tie with the United Kingdom over the years. It’s played host to a number of tours, as well as being the surroundings that cultivated a few of the Los Angeles quartet’s most loved tracks. It may seem like the band were unheard of until plugging began for their most recent album, Saintmotelevision, but they’ve had a presence in the UK for quite some time now— that catchy song with the incredible saxophone solo on the Phones4U adverts? ‘My Type’, Saint Motel’s single from back in 2014 that also made an appearance in two hit movies and a couple of video games. Their return to the UK this year is their first tour in support of the new album, and we headed along to their sold out performance at Scala, London to find out what this new era has in-store for fans.
The crowd, packing the room from side to side, was a shock. Saint Motel play a brand of sugary sweet, unforgettable indie pop that you’d expect to appeal to teenagers who follow the kind of music scene this band no doubt fits in to. Alas, Saint Motel’s fans are of the older variety and so carry themselves with what you could consider a little more dignity than their younger counterparts. The lights went down and not a single scream could be heard— instead, fans clapped politely as the band made their way on to the stage.
Lead singer A/J Jackson makes sure that everyone watching knows he is the very star of the show. Whether he’s perched behind his keyboard or strumming his guitar, he does so while pulling off dance moves that would not be out of place at a tacky 80’s wedding. It’s a comparison some would take offence to but, honestly, it works very much in his favour. The way Jackson and fellow members, lead guitarist Aaron Sharp, bassist Dak Lerdamornpong and drummer Greg Erwin command the crowd is a truly spellbinding experience. Every sound put out, every move made— it’s all part of a plot to make every person in the room feel like they are part of something special.
Despite playing in support of Saintmotelevision, the evening’s setlist had much more to offer than new material. ‘Cold Cold Man’, for example, is an older track but still serves its purpose in drumming up excitement among the crowds it is played to. As an opener, it fits perfectly; an intelligent choice by a group that is deserving of stages far bigger than ones in venues that barely fit 1000 people. Saint Motel, if they continue to play their cards right, are destined to put on one hell of a stadium spectacle.
The leading single from the new album, ‘Move’, and other new popular tracks such as ‘Getaway’ and ‘Sweet Talk’ were the pièce de résistance, however. Audience members, whether at their first Saint Motel show or their thirteenth, were unlikely to have heard these performed before that evening and so there was a particular buzz of anticipation around them. They not only showcase how the band has evolved and grown, but performed live they incite a fire and put that very unique pizzazz that this band possesses in to perspective.
All photos by Tom Russell.