Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Live in 2015: The Staves at The Glee Club, Cardiff on Monday 16th February 2015

This was the first time I had been able to see The Staves live and boy, was I impressed. The Staves are 3 English sisters, Emily Staveley-Taylor (vocals/keyboard/percussion), Camilla (vocals/ukulele/guitars) & Jessica (vocals/guitar). 

They've released one full album so far, Dead & Born & Grown at the end of 2012.

But first up was the diminutive figure of Flo Morrisey as support. Flo has a quiet ethereal voice and plays guitar & keyboard with her songs. She played about seven songs including, funnily enough, a version of Irish Heart English Blood. Her set went down well with the crowd, which was made up of people of all ages and a good contingent of females, which is always good to see outside of a boyband gig.

The Staves have been holed up in April Base Studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, USA, with Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver on production duties working on the new album If I Was and this tour has given them a chance to present the majority of the songs (9/12) a live airing. And I can confidently say that if the album sounds half as good as the live versions of the songs, it's going to be a cracker.

The ladies, complimented by drummer, bass & keyboard/guitar players played a 16 song set that was heavily built around the new album. They opened with the first track from the new album, Blood I Bred quickly followed by another new track , Steady. Next up was the EP only song, Open.
Being in Cardiff, the ladies proudly advertised their half Welsh heritage (their mother is Welsh) - to shouts of 'the good half' and soon got the crowd on their side. Throughout the show, the new material got as much applause as the older songs - always a good sign. 

Although concentrating mainly on the new album, one of the highlights of the night came next as they played Mexico from their debut album. a gorgeous song.

The sound all evening was bright and clear and the sisters' harmonies were nothing short of breathtaking on several songs.
A spate of new songs followed with Horizons, Black & White, The Shining & the beautiful No Me, No You, No More. Several of the new songs were quite expansive and intricate with several movements within one song - very unexpected but very welcome. The sisters have certainly moved on for the debut and I think the 'difficult second album' tag seems to have passed them by as the new material is very impressive.

Eagle Song came next and again was followed by two new songs. The highlight of the night for me came with the next song from the new album, Damn It All, which is one of the longer songs. It featured sublime vocals and some subtle sound effects and I can't wait to hear it on the new album, (vinyl, of course).

During the next track, another splendid new song called Make It Holy, Jessica's guitar strap fell off about 1/3 of the way in. She said this was their comedy moment, very fitting as we were in a comedy club, but just she strapped it back on and started the song from the beginning, to appreciative applause.

The run up to the end of the show returned to the debut album. First up was Pay Us No Mind, which the introduced us to the last new song of the evening, the upbeat Teeth White. With all three sisters contributing to lead vocals, the evening remained varied but gently familiar.

The set ended with Winter Trees, one of the best songs from Dead & Born & Grown. 

But, the ladies were up for an encore so we had Facing West and then to finish a beautiful rendition of Wisely & Slow, with Emily, Camilla & Jessica singing around one Mic.

A fitting end to a fantastic evening of beautiful harmony singing. The new songs are well up to standard and a few on first hearing are absolutely stunning. I can't wait to see what Justin Vernon and his team have contributed to the soundscapes of the new album.

Below is a short 10 minute documentary on the new album. Give it a view.

Twitter - @thestaves


all photos by Macwood Fleet - but feel free to use at will

Friday, 13 February 2015

Live in 2015: Jack Savoretti at The Globe, Cardiff on Wenesday 11th February 2015

Isn't it a joy when you find that an artist is even better live than on disc? This is what I found when I went to see Jack Savoretti at The Globe in Cardiff. 

I have been a fan of Jack since his first album back in 2007 with the delicate Between The Minds. Over the past 8 years Mr Savoretti has been growing as a songwriter and performer. His first album received plenty of airplay and support from the likes of BBC Radio 2 but subsequent albums, despite showing an increase in quality and scope have failed to have the impact they've deserved. Lost in the growing number of Singer/Songwriters currently plying their trade from the UK.

However, with his just released new album Written In Scars, Jack has produced an album worthy of a comeback and the current tour is heavily influenced by the new material with no less than 7 songs appearing in his live show.

As I stated earlier, I was pleasantly surprised at how Jack takes his music up a level in the live performances. He has a boyish charm which is a hit with the female members of the audience, but more of that later.
Jack has wisely chosen several upbeat numbers from his catalogue. The show opens with the title track of the new album, Written In Scars
The Globe was sold out and the atmosphere was superb with a high percentage of female fans (no surprise there) - and the crowd sang along all night - one of the best crowds for participation I've seen at The Globe. This fed the band who loved the atmosphere and made for a superb night of entertainment.

Jack chose songs from most of his albums but for some reason didn't play anything from his second album, Harder Than Easy.  

The band played crowd favourites such as Breaking The Rules, Sweet Hurt & Vagabond but the first half was primarily based on the new album with Back To Me, Fight To The End, Broken Glass & the excellent Hurt.

Jack then chose sing several tracks from his debut album - with just him & his guitar unaccompanied by the band.
They included the sublime Dreamers, Once Upon A Street which led into his version of Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire and finishing off with the excellent Soldier's Eyes.

The band then came back and we were into the new album again with the uptempo run to the end of the show. Here we had The Other Side Of Life & Tie Me Down, by which time the crowd were dancing along to the music, well, as much as you can in a packed venue like The Globe.

At this point Jack commented on how he couldn't keep the button on his shirt done up, only to be greeted with the chant of OFF OFF OFF by the female members of the audience - and a few males too, no doubt! But, he kept is shirt on and finished off with Not Worthy & Knock Knock.

With the crowd now in the palm of his hand, Jack came on for the encore and gave an exceptional performance of Bob Dylan's Nobody Cept You.
The show finally ended with Jack In A Box and the uplifting Come Shine A Light.

Twitter @jacksavoretti

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Live In 2015: The Songwriters Circle with Danny George Wilson, Peter Bruntnell & Neil Halstead at The Chattery, Swansea on Saturday 7th October 205

They must be getting used to this by now. Danny George Wilson, Neil Halstead & Peter Bruntnell have headed out together on tour again as a Songwriter's Circle. And it's just over a year since they last graced The Chattery in Swansea. The perfect venue for a Songwriter's Circle gig. It was a success in 2014, and it's even better this year.

The Chattery proves once again that it is the best little venue in Wales. With many of the audience regulars, who turn out for most of the gigs, enjoying another stunning performance from the three seasoned songwriters on the second night of a short UK tour.

The format remains the same, which each songwriter performing a song in turn, with selective accompaniment from his comrades.
The blend is perfect, with the upbeat Danny, the dry-witted Peter and the gentle Neil dovetailing their songs to provide a beautiful evening of tunesmithery and wordplay.

All three artists selected songs from throughout their careers.
Danny kicked off with The Truest Kind from the first Danny & The Champions of the World album. Peter's first song was You Won't Find Me from his 2002 album, Normal For Bridgwater. And Neil opened his account with Tied To You from his last album, 2012's beautiful, Palindrome Hunches.

With so much music to choose from, it must have been a daunting task to know what tracks to play but the night just flew by even though the show was split into two halves.

The boys have played together quite a few times now and the banter between them seems genuine and self-effacing.

Hot on the heels on a couple of superb albums, Stay True & Live Champs and a sellout tour,  Danny played some wonderful songs including (Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket, Every Beat Of My Heart and the crowd Hum-Along favourite, Henry The Van. He even threw in a new song from the new Danny & The Champs album due out in May, a track called Clear Water, which got a huge cheer from the audience.

Peter, tonight bravely suffering from the aftermath of a cold, put in a sterling performance which included tracks Jurassic Parking Lot, False Start, Black Mountain UFO and the superb By The Time My Head Gets To Phoenix.

Neil chose tracks such as Full Moon Rising, Who Do You Love, Hey Daydreamer & his previous band Mojave 3's Between The Bars.

They finished the show with a lovely version of the John Prine song, Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness. A perfect way to end a perfect evening of quality music.

Three songwriters, obviously loving each other's company, giving a superb night's entertainment. Who can really ask for more? Well, me actually. How about an album together in the future, guys?