Live: Gleeful Histrionics. Saint Etienne, The London Palladium.

An already ebullient ambience within The London Palladium that's at least as camp as any Boxing Day, if not Christmas itself (sharing a birthday with the Son of God, coincidentally tonight we inadvertently celebrate Bob Stanley's half-birthday) greets Saint Etienne on this muggy June Monday. A Soho-styled national treasure, the trio now benefit from a befittingly, seemingly almost Kylie-restyled approach on nearest, arguably dearest and eighth full-length Words and Music by Saint Etienne. And appositely, as the theatre's safety curtain recedes into ceiling to reveal bulging blobs of glow, the atmosphere swiftly turns discernibly celebratory.

This one delayed by nigh on a month due to Sarah Cracknell coming down with "a horrible croak" in the voice, although rescheduled anticipation is yet rife for their first show in such grandiose environs since 2003. The stage stained with the inviting lulling blues and vivid mauve hues to traditionally emanate out from Under The Arches of Villiers Street it somehow, strangely and quite inexplicably, feels as though I've aged palpable aeons in 48 hours. For although the London troupe may be injecting a synthesised vivacity into their already protracted existence – one that once felt designed to do anything but last – there's a robustness to their momentarily flimsy yet resolutely joyous disco schtick that's coated in a still-scintillating sheen of nostalgia. An evening of rediscovery; of remembrance almost, it's an intoxicating trip.

All sequined and almost strangled by her restive feather boa, Cracknell waltzes out from a veritable tundra of dry ice to effuse convincing pleasantries: "Anyone who wants to stand up and dance, please do!" she gloriously implores within mere moments as though the endearingly awkward, absolutely plastered mother of the bride impulsively promoting jollity having chucked tens of thousands down the proverbial pan. And quicker than you can clack glittering heels we're rolling on soles for the foreseeable: if she may seem slightly absentminded on a gently vacant Like A Motorway as she voices its somewhat wan metaphors, it's but a fleeting impression of disenchantment as Jigsaw cover Who Do You Think You Are paints an indelible elation across the stalls and beyond. Her onstage boogying as embarrassing as the term itself, if it illustrates the ineluctable ageing of both song and she (unaired Words and Music cut Twenty Five Years even has Cracknell confessing: "I've got twenty five years; maybe more if I'm lucky") then both have matured quite resplendently as we slip helplessly into a compulsive sway even though, again to revert to nuptial allegory, the sound seems but a whisper akin to that hissed from rickety '80s PA. As such the overriding effect is one of the most consistent of karaoke nights, insinuated in the most positive fashion: they'd indubitably be the best wedding band at any rate, or indeed one to enchant an entire holiday camp as they've lamentably not done since Butlins' first, and seemingly last Bowlie.

For the '80s is the decade to which Saint Etienne unmistakably belong: despite never functioning in said epoch, an expeditious and typically Balearic Burnt Out Car comes across as Actually-era Pet Shop Boys B-side with Cracknell's vocals for the first time in a few a little dicky if no longer croaky, whilst When I Was Seventeen pertains to a comparable aesthetic, all bedazzling retro allure despite quite inconceivably being inked in this modern age. Similarly disbelieving is Cracknell of the revelation that there's "not one" seventeen-year-old present and correct, what with it being a school night and all. Yet this negligible stylistic differentiation between the two could be put down as some false economy; a distinct lack of progress were each not so effortlessly accessible and ultimately engaging: for their methodology obviously ain't broke, in which case there's little to no need for it to be fixed nor even tinkered with, and both old and new are whooped to equally enthused extent. As with Orbital, Saint Etienne appear to have somehow turned ageless.

Similarly, a strained Mario's Cafe to the tongue tastes as commensurately suited to "Tuesday morning, 10am" back in 1990, or 2004 as it does to this dreary Monday soirée come June. An ode to the grottier greasy spoons of the capital, if the times may have irrefutably changed and the town's towers may have scaled forever greater heights since then its essence and Saint Etienne's impression of remain, as punctiliously defined as ever. Suavity soon subsides in favour of a far more forthcoming euphoria which peaks on Popular as variegated balloons throb and projections of comparably antiquated chart countdowns run through the likes of Desmond Dekker, David Bowie, Whirligig and Van Smooth. It's the sort of immaculate and airy, utterly irresistible pop smash that'd surely have featured within such rundown were it flung out into some remote and now not even remotely recognisable '70s-tainted past. The sepia cinematics of a perfectly estival Spring then overhaul all imagery: still a beguiling speaksing wonder, it's evocative of The Avalanches at their overwhelming, bit-overload best as it attributes yet more timelessness to Bobby Reed's already ageless, if ancient The Time Is Right for Love.

A Good Thing is simplicity itself whilst remaining enviably efficacious even with Cracknell forgetting a few lyrics somewhere whilst crossing its bridge, as is the carefree Goldfrapp-cum-Europop bop of Haunted Jukebox and again with little to differentiate between this, that and their initial output you sense that Groove Armada must've once really loaded up on Saint Etienne before setting sail for, and subsequently plundering the charts. Their customary cover, an unabashedly baggy Only Love Can Break Your Heart, is to the trio what that madcap conjoining of Where The Streets Have No Name and Can't Take My Eyes Off You is to their synthpop counterparts aforesaid whilst the only slightly wicked Sylvie, propelled by those invigorating arpeggios, proves conclusively conducive to much swooning and indeed some schmoozing up and down every aisle. DJ has a real crunch to it as it conjures a representation of the best club never constructed with yet more dry ice wafting across glinting dress embellishment and polychromatic spotlight; the Richard X-esque candied pop of Tonight flickers with a childish, wide-eyed relish; and You're In A Bad Way is as though a festive Pulp fronted by a feminine reflection of the already adorably effeminate Cocker.

As an emotive trawl through the discography – albeit one almost excessively seasoned with the flavours of the latest – never is it more so than on what Cracknell factually earmarks as "the first song I ever recorded with Saint Etienne", Nothing Can Stop Us. Initially drafted in as a momentary vocalist, if the track still sounds fresh to the point of refreshing in a pop atmosphere dominated by ersatz imitation and shameful artificiality then its vocalist is accentuated as a sturdy mainstay; a precise focal point to cling to amid the euphoric haze. Certainly her voice is anything but precise tonight although in imperfection lies adoration and if this particular show is in no way as pristine as, say, I've Got Your Music then it's all the more enchanting for it. When not struggling to dislodge a balloon or two from stage anchorage, she's both sincerely and profusely thanking us for coming; dishing out acceptance speech appreciation for LP engineers, PR bods and so on and so forth. She slurs as though sozzled on the sheer jubilation of enthralling such a venue so: "Ah amazing! I love that you're all standing up!" she coos, before later guffawing: "What better place to play" from the most genuine of smiles. Her keenness is catching as she appears to embody what Ms. Ciccone could've become had she aged demonstrating some form of decorum.

Thus if initially she may appear a little lost out front; out on a limb – or two – as she continually gazes about herself in search of support, or enthusiasm, or purely interaction then she grows into the show, just as she has the band. Amused by her own lyrical forgetfulness, the zealous adherents here congregated and their recollection of every last word she's an unforeseeably compelling character and one, you envisage, would be the finest of lenient yet learned godmothers. In the evening's closing moments she speaks of the now perhaps somewhat antediluvian expectation of we "listening to the record over and over before you go [to, in this case, The London Palladium]" yet conversely, stripped of impeccable gloss, their au courant Words and Music assume ever greater pertinence as they're imbued with an urge to go listen over and over again.

As we gleefully depart, a sign reads: Would patrons please note that theatrical smoke, pyrotechnics & flashing lights are used during this performance and with climes inside infernal enough already, two outta three ain't half bad.