Readers of this blog will know I love the Staves and have seen them a couple of times in the last year. So of course I had to go and see them on their latest tour. My friends Jon and Shane came along too. We started with a couple of beers in the excellent new pub in the revamped Kings Cross station, the Parcel Yard. It’s on the site of the old parcel depot and retains plenty of the old features. It’s airy and has some great views of the new station. And being a Fullers pub, the beer is, of course, excellent.
The Scala is just up the road from the station. It’s one of those slightly worn, but characterful venues. A place where the punks used to play, and I doubt it’s changed hugely since those halcyon seventies days.
The support band, were a threesome called SIVU (I think). Two women, on violin and cello, and a bloke on electric guitar and vocals. The songs were understated, atmospheric, quite intriguing. They worked well in the live environment, but I wondered how they would translate to a recording, with no drums or bass. Good stuff though.
And then the Staves. The music as good as ever. The singing and the harmonies as captivating as ever. A touch of world-weariness in the introductions. They’ve been on the road for some time, supported some big acts, like Bon Iver. Was this tour just a bit of a step down? It’s the first specifically promoting the album, “Dead & Born & Grown” though (which I reviewed here), but they’ve had a taste of bigger things.
Pretty much the whole of the album got an airing. I did keep a list of the songs on my iPhone, but somehow managed to delete all recent data from my notes the other night. Grrr! But I do recall a lovely start, with “Gone Tomorrow” and then “Icarus”, an “old” favourite from an earlier EP. Highlights, for me, included my favourite new song from the album , “In The Long Run” (about being away from home, on tour), the full version of “Wisely But Slow” with the African/ Fleetwood Mac drums in the latter half, and “Winter Trees”, which almost veered into prog rock. Or should that be prog folk? It wasn’t the only song – “Eagle Song” and one of the new tracks were others – that made me think that the band might develop into a sixties-style psychedelic folk band. Fairpoint Convention the benchmark, I guess, but also a band like Espers, of more recent vintage, whom I really like. Maybe Jessica will let her guitar playing rip, get some electric solos going.
It will be interesting to see – and hear – what next steps the Staves take. The current sound, which is wonderful, and could just catch on with the youth, in the same way as, say, Mumford and Sons, or Ben Howard, is more likely to achieve a decent hardcore following, but not a massive audience. It’s kind of folk, after all. So is the direction something rockier, with a bit more of that prog sound? It feels like a natural progression. It will require a full band – and things are moving that way already, live.
I’m torn, because it was the beautiful simplicity of the early records, the purity of the harmonies, that attracted me to the music. But I can see that they need to move on, develop the sound, attract new and larger audiences.
It’s going to be a trip!
When I lost the data on my iPhone, I also lost a few photos I took. But these two websites have snaps, a video and authoritative reviews of the gig too.