The Staves - Hackney Empire, London
It must be a frustrating experience to arrange a tour around an album, only to find the release date pushed back, resulting in your new music not hitting the shelves and online stores till after the tour is over. This is the situation The Staves find themselves in as they take to the road to promote If I Was, the follow up to their debut album.
The folk rock trio of Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor have put together a set heavy with tracks from the new collection but seemed to face no trouble in commanding the attention of an audience unfamiliar with a lot of the songs on display, as they remained enchanted throughout their Hackney Empire performance. I’m sure a few of the tunes on Dead & Born & Grown’s successor have already wormed their way into the hearts of Staves fans, mind you. I remember ‘Teeth White’ making a memorable appearance on their last tour, whilst the recorded versions of ‘Black And White’ (a song about being “jolly angry”, with an amusing 80s inspired video) and ‘Blood I Bled’ already seem firm favorites. ‘Blood I Bled’ was actually my “number one” track of 2014, so it was a real privilege to take it in from the photo pit, as it was the set’s opener.
The threesome seem to have upped their game for album number two, with a more expansive sound that seemed harder and rockier in places. Additional songs that made a real impression on first listen included the clap-heavy ‘Horizons’ and ‘Make It Holy, a track with a hypnotic chorus and military drumming that included a guest appearance from Bon Iver's Justin Vernon.
There was also room for a few “oldies”, including ‘Mexico’, ‘Pay Us No Mind’ and set closer ‘Winter Trees’, which all sounded phenomenal, but they lose a point for the exclusion of ‘Tongue Behind My Teeth’ Perhaps two oral related anthems were one too many for the Empire?
As always with the group, there was humor to be found between songs, with a lot of the Hackney hilarity centering round Jessica’s monochrome version of “Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat”, complete with an airing of ‘Give me my coloured coat…” from her siblings. She got the last laugh mind you, saying the jokes on them, as they’re in a band with her!
A lot of the fun was happening while they were meant to be composing themselves for the final encore songs of the night – ‘Facing West’ and ‘Wisely And Slow’, with the trio eventually focusing on the tunes in question, reminding fans why they fell in love with the sister act in the first place, especially during 'Wisely', with the three girls huddled round the one microphone, delivering their perfect acapella harmonies during the track’s beginning.
If I Was gets a UK release on March the 23rd, so in the words of The Staves, “pre order that shit”, as it will be well worth waiting for!