There have been some classic festive shows this year, but one of the best – and among the finest celebrations of Oxfordshire musicianship – took place not on the Cowley Road but down the M40 in West London.

Saint Etienne are, to all intents and purposes, an Oxford band. Singer Sarah Cracknell lives just outside the city, and while founders Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs hail from further afield, the touring band features The Dreaming Spires’ Robin and Joe Bennett (Dorchester and Steventon, respectively) and drummer Mike Monaghan, from Carterton.

So, it was little surprise to walk into a packed Shepherd’s Bush Empire on December 9 and bump into a crowd of Oxfordshire faces (all the more special considering Carterton’s biggest star, Willie J Healey was headlining the O2 Academy back in Oxford the same night).

Saint Etienne have had a phenomenal year which has seen them regain the levels of adulation they garnered in the 90s with their slick electronic indie dance-pop.

Their new album Home Counties is ranked among the best of the year, topping some polls, and they have played everywhere from our own Common People festival to the USA and Helsinki.

This festive show was a homecoming and there was a palpable sense of love in the air among an audience obviously following them since ‘91 debut Foxbase Alpha.

We were treated to a Home Counties-heavy set, in all its quirky glory, starting with Church Pew Furniture Restorer, but studded with such crowd pleasers as Let’s Kiss and Make Up, a sexy Only Love Can Break Your Heart and a soaring Nothing Can Stop Us.

This is music to dream and dance to. Sarah’s voice is as beautiful as ever and the virtuosic Robin and Joe seemed to have taken over the band, playing upfront. Even Mike’s drum kit was pushed forward, the loveable sticksman owning the stage and propelling the whole glorious set with deceptive ease and a cheeky smile.

The set finished with another gem He’s on the Phone but the best was yet to come with an encore boasting a sultry cover of Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas (minutes after Chris himself was taken to hospital after collapsing onstage at Oxford’s New Theatre), followed by the eccentric Train Drivers in Eyeliner and the one we’d all been waiting for – their Christmas song I Was Born on Christmas Day, Sarah joined on vocals by the most unlikely of special guests – Matt Berry – of Toast of London and IT Crowd fame, apparently a huge fan too.

We cheered for more – and almost looked like we were going to get it – before the lights came on. Probably for the best. How could anyone top that? What a festive finale!