Whilst Nottingham had come under attack from a zombie invasion; a swarm of tacky masks and fake blood overrunning the city centre as over on the quiet canal side, The Glee Club was tonight’s quiet retreat, packed to the rafters for Watford’s The Staves.
Apologising for not getting fully into the Halloween spirit to friendly jeers from a mixed aged crowd, the sisters rolled straight into a set that covered their expansive début album Dead & Born & Grown. A few songs in and the sound demons had rendered the five piece to just the three sisters; their bassist leaving the stage due to ongoing technical issues. All in black, the three sisters were not to be stopped and they interjected the slight delay with an impromptu rendition of Disney classic ‘Robin Hood and Little John’, much to the adulation of the Robin Hood county crowd. The Glee Club, known more for its comedy than its live music was treated to some great wit from the three girls who calmly brushed off any problems with self-deprecating quips and jibes at their blushing bassist, Cyrus. Seemingly forgetting they are in front of a 500 strong crowd, the girls continue their strategy plan in full earshot of the microphones, but little did it bother them, and here it is so humbly evident their growth over the past eighteen months from their support set at the very same venue to this show is astronomical.
Their angelic voices continued to keep the Halloween demons well at bay as they treated their adoring gathering to a few new tracks, a couple of which see the girls developing an Americana vibe, foot tapping rather than the head swaying mellowness of their début album. The contrast is perfect and not too frequent, ebbing and flowing from tambourine shaking to flawless silence-inducing warbling.
Pigeon-holed between First Aid Kit and Simon & Garfunkel with a soft whispered sprinkling of Joni Mitchell, the three plough on and ‘Tongue Behind My Teeth’ and ‘Winter Trees’ are well received and the woozy ukulele led ‘Facing West’ twists from an English simple folk song into a West Coast dreamy love note.
The stand out track of another pitch-perfect show was Wisely & Slow. When playing this album opener on Jools Holland, he summed up the sound as “blood harmony” and that hits the nail right on the head. The way in which the three different voices melt and blend together is just gorgeous. The spine-tingling intro to the track silences an audience who for the duration gladly sang along. The legato through the end of the A capella section (2minutes 20seconds in) is just divine. Gathered around the centre-mic, here the trio are at their choral, silencing peak before a crescendo that sees their Mona Lisa track run into a foot stomping finale.
From the new tracks that get an outing, ‘Teeth White’ stands out like a sore thumb, in a good way. It’s a detour into the pop sphere, but a very welcome one. Everything from the riff to the upbeat brassy more fierce hook is pop-chart solid gold, and perhaps the track that will elevate them from the hearts of a few to the hearts of the many.
Following another witty Jessica anecdote, the show comes to an end but for a quick encore where the girls play out title track ‘Dead & Born & Grown’. On a rainy Halloween night, The Staves play a set that sees their pristine vocals merge with a backdrop of simple percussion, delicate guitar work and forwarding bass lines. Telling your friends you spent your Halloween eve seeing a three piece harmonic girl band might not sound the coolest of things to do, but give me smouldering faultless harmonies over your ripped t-shirts and white face paint every time.