The Staves are a trio of sisters - Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor – hailing from Watford who are already making serious waves on the global folk music scene. Having most notably supported Bon Iver on their North American tour in 2012, The Staves have gone from strength to strength, playing gigs across the world and building up an ever-expanding fan base. The band is currently on their own headline tour to promote their eagerly awaited second album, If I Was, with a string of dates across the UK and Europe. All their UK shows have sold out, showing how highly regarded they are in their own right and adding an even greater sense of anticipation to tonight’s gig. They do not disappoint us.
The band enter the stage to rapturous applause from the crowd, whom they greet with a smiley ‘hello’ and a wave, before breaking into their first song: ‘Blood I Bled’. From the moment of the song’s opening haunting riff, the audience is captivated. This song, together with the ensuing ‘Steady’, are from their new album, indicating a fuller, more layered and, at times rockier sound to the album’s predecessor, Dead & Born and Grown, whilst retaining the beautiful, close three-part harmonies and hypnotic guitars that make it identifiably ‘Stave-like’. At the same time, ‘Open’, also taken of the Blood I Bled record, provides a contrasting sparseness in sound more akin to The Staves of old, the song stripped back to vocals and guitar and at a much slower pace. The change in dynamic is striking and extremely effective.
It says a lot when a band can hold an audience’s undivided attention throughout quieter, delicate songs. Yet, this is exactly what The Staves manage to do. Indeed, the pattern of the night is one of reverent attentiveness from the crowd throughout each song, followed by fervent clapping and whoops in between. Regardless of the tune they are playing, The Staves are almost hypnotic. Highlights of the night are the familiar, stunning ‘Mexico’, off the first record, and ‘Let Me Down’, which is virtually a capella throughout and really brings to the fore how effortless the sisters make their luscious harmonies seem. ‘Teeth White’, meanwhile, stands out too for its relatively quirky, upbeat and more humourous tone, tambourines and shimmying out in force.
Despite their clear talent and popularity, The Staves seems relatively shy at first, offering a few nuggets of chat in between songs, before gradually coming out of their shell more and providing some charming sisterly ‘banter’ and fun anecdotes with the crowd. They seem genuinely humbled by the audience’s attentive and enthusiastic nature, frequently thanking them for ‘being such a nice audience’. The truth is, the pleasure is all ours. The band wraps up the show with an encore of ‘Facing West’ and ‘Wisely and Slow’, two stunning crowd-pleasers from the first album which demonstrate yet again the remarkable power of their vocal harmonies. It is only when the final note is played and the set is truly over that the audience is uncontrollable for the first time, bursting into irrepressible cheers and clapping. As the lights go back on and the crowd head to the exits, you can’t help but think you’ve just witnessed something truly magical.