Review: The Staves at Phoenix

The Staves

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As an unabashed cynic, I have always held the view that Valentine’s Day is an unnecessary frivolity that doesn’t deserve the hype it gets. With this in mind, when February 14th rolled round once again I abandoned any ambitions of wooing and, consequently, dating any unfortunate potential partners and resolved to indulge in my other love: music, or more specifically, Hertfordshire folk trio, The Staves. I had only become acquainted with the sultry tones of these three sisters a week or so before the gig, so, as I made my way down to Phoenix I had little idea of what to expect, bar close-harmony singing and acoustic strumming. What greeted me certainly exceeded my expectations.

The first I heard as the lights went down was a rippling acoustic guitar riff, pattering slowly on the heads of the spectators, then soft vocals as the middle sister, Jessica, crooned into the opening lines of Blood I Bled. The sound grew steadily, as oldest, Emily, and youngest, Camilla, joined with percussion and ukulele, rising to a crescendo, the three female voices blending in a potent mix of sound.

This blend was the trio’s primary strength throughout the performance. With their vocals’ unique synchronicity, one could almost picture the sisters in their earliest days of music making, cementing an understanding of one another’s pitches in a way only siblings could understand. This prompted one audience member to cry out at the end of their first song, dubbing them the “best female band in the world”.

This theme continued through the concert, with Mexico, from one of their first EPs, showcasing their earlier folk style, followed by the powerful Black & White, which will appear on their upcoming album, If I Was, due for release March 23rd. However, a personal highlight was their final rendition of Facing West; supple ukulele beneath the sisters’ unobtrusive harmonies, conjuring up subtle Americana blues that sent tingles up the spine which remained long after the lights had been turned back on and the final audience member had reluctantly shuffled out.

Safe to say, I left the gig with a lot more Valentine’s sentimentality than I’d arrived with!

Ted Bartram

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