Friday, February 13, 2015

The Staves rock Hackney Empire (gently)

Ah, The Staves. Dreamy and uplifting and heavenly and yada yada yada. We all know the music's beautiful. What no-one ever mentions is that they're fucking funny.

On stage, the Watford sisters bicker wonderfully between songs. Emily and Camilla tease their sister Jessica for wearing a gown that looks like "Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat... if you were watching him on a black and white TV". Jessica responds by breaking into Coat of Many Colours, after which Camilla drily announces: "Ladies and gentlemen, my sister. The bell-end."

"Joke's on you, cos you're stuck in a band with me," her sister replies. "I'm an inescapable bell-end."

At which, Camilla leans into the mic and whispers: "Inescapable bell-end: The new fragrance from Jessica Stavely-Taylor."

But don't worry, there's no Kinks-style brouhaha here. This is all good-natured banter, and one of the main reasons to catch The Staves live.

The other is the music. Did I mention it was dreamy and uplifting and heavenly? Well, those caressive harmonies are as sublime as ever. And the material from the band's new album, If I Was, gives the band an excuse strut their inner rock chick, too.

Spit-flecked single Black and White is strident and sonorous; while the Beatles-y Teeth White carouses around a choppy guitar groove. Jessica even gives it some windmill as she leans back into those power chords.

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon (who produced the new album) makes a surprise appearance to harmonise on the hymnal Make It Holy, wearing a fetching denim shirt. "Literally words can't express what that guy means to us," says Emily as he takes his bow.

The set is peppered with older material too ("all the megahits," Camilla calls them). Mexico, Winter Trees and Wisely and Slow are met with roars of approval. But it's the new stuff that shows how far The Staves have come. Multi-layered and structurally complex it's a genuine evolution from a band with talent to spare.

"So we made a new album," Camilla deadpans. "Pre-order the shit out of that. It's important, apparently."

Blood I Bled
Black and White
No Me, No You, No More
Let Me Down
Pay Us No Mind
Eagle Song
Damn It All
Make It Holy
Teeth White
Winter Trees

-- Encore --
Facing West
Wisely and slow

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