Image Credit: Artist’s Facebook
The support for the evening came in the form of the young Flo Morrisy and James Canty. Morrisy, barely out of her teens, has been following The Staves on all their February UK dates, channelling a sound close to that of Lana Del Rey. Despite her young age, her songs had an engaging unpredictability to them, and she held her own well on the large stage, proving a compatible act to the headliners. Especially for the Liverpool show, James Canty was up next, a songwriter who in fact features in the Staves’s backing band. Supported by an outfit containing some well-known faces in the local Liverpool music scene, his quirky tunes were something to behold. Initially I couldn’t help feel a little alienated by it all, however, before long I realised I was tapping my foot along to his eccentric songs. The dramatic timbral oddities (which at one point stretched to banjo, mixed with synth and a wobbly vocal) and carefree feel, had a strange escapist appeal, and the crowd soon latched onto this, dancing along to his tune ‘Kick Start My Heart’.
But now it was time for the headline act, and pleasingly the crowd were informed that this show at the Arts Club show was a kind of homecoming gig for the Staverly-Taylor sisters. Although you would be excused for not suspecting their Liverpool roots, given their soft, well-spoken accents, nearly every musician performing on stage with The Staves had studied at university in the city of Liverpool. That said, most of the audience appeared to know they were kin, and welcomed them with warm applause and quiet attentive listening throughout the show.
Opening with a newer song, Blood I Bled, off their 2014 EP of the same name, the sisters appeared sure and confident, emboldened by their tight backing band. Indeed, this was perhaps the most conspicuous change I noticed since I last saw them back in 2012 at Green Man Festival. Gone were the shy, slightly awkward mannerisms and the intimate arrangements accompanied only by acoustic guitar. Instead, for the most part, arrangements were much fuller, and they seemed much more comfortable under the stage lights. Indeed, their set was drawn mainly from their new album, due to be released in March this year. The influence of Justin Vernon on their updated sound is palpable, and for those who are familiar with Bon Iver’s last album, many of the musical techniques of dynamic change and build up will be recognisable. This has imbued the songs with a more mature sound, quite reminiscent of the work of fellow alternative songstress, Feist, on her album Metals.
However, crucially for The Staves, their charm has remained intact. On multiple occasions the audience stood in rapt silence as they were treated to the flawless close harmonies that initially so enthralled early fans and has become characteristic of the act’s sound. In fact, it was perhaps the increased contrast of these moments with their newer more intense songs which afforded them such sway at the Arts Club that evening. Their set was beautifully concluded with their farewell in the form of Wisely and Slow, the opening track off their debut album Dead & Born & Grown, a song containing equalling heights of emotional intensity, both in the still, a cappella opening to the powerful, full band climax. A climax surmising what was a special night for all involved.
Words: Rich Bond