A year and a half on the road in support of one record and one EP is an understandably exhaustive endeavor – so exhaustive, in fact, that any sort of “dip” in live performance would be arguably justified – but for The Staves, their sold out Friday night set at The High Watt didn’t feature an ounce of road weariness. Instead, it was a show steeped in the casual confidence and razor sharp wit that have endeared The Staves to so many.
Wasting little time, the Staveley-Taylor sisters – Emily, Camilla, and Jessica – assumed the High Watt stage to quickly eschew their indie-folk roots, with a blistering run of “Blood I Bled” off their debut record, If I Wait. An immediate crowd pleaser, the trio of uber-harmonizers creating hilariously witty discourse between the band and their audience – per Jessica, “This is Music City, man; anything can happen” – before jumping into a tonal juxtaposition with “Black & White,” which made the crowd overwrought with joy via each coming harmonic line.
After a couple other quips from Jessica, The Staves jumped into the hyper-synchopated (and wistful) title track off their Sleeping in a Car EP. I’m a huge fan of Teenage Engineering’s live gear, so you could imagine my excitement (and jealousy) when I noticed Emily was using an OP-1 during “Sleeping in a Car.” The production value had boosted considerably – but it must be noted: it was never lacking – creating some profoundly intimate moments at one turn and then packing a wallop of sound in an instant, a la “Sleeping in a Car” straight into “Steady.”
After a few deep cuts – “In the Long Run” and “Mexico” – someone in the crowd desperately needed to know how old each of the Staveley-Taylor sisters were, to which Camilla offered up a revelation – “We’re actually brothers.” There’s your L/S exclusive for you!
All joking aside, Jessica isn’t the only clever member of The Staves – Emily shared a couple of hilarious anecdotes during their first visit to Nashville. The first of the two comes in the form of a Lion King reference during an evening spent on a rooftop drinking, in which a gentleman placed his arm around Emily and told her that Nashville is “her city,” as if he was her personal Music City Mufasa. Following a run of “Roses” and “Facing West,” the sisters reveled in the memory of another Nashville visit, in which they finished a gig and were brought to Mercy Lounge by a promoter who promised a “surprise” Kings of Leon set, only to reveal that the “surprise” set wasn’t from Kings of Leon, but rather a KOL parody group that touted such classics as “Ass on Fire,” to which Camilla closed with “Good memory for us, not super good story for you guys.”
Even despite the entertaining juxtaposition between their live set and banter, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone that hadn’t been fully enveloped by the experience of the set. There were callbacks to the “Its Music City Man…” from Jessica and then spellbinding drops into “No Me, No You, No More” that tore at the soul, followed by intelligent discourse on the Brexit exit in The Staves’ homeland, to which assured they “count [our] lucky stars to be surrounded by people who don’t make decisions based on fear,” and that asserted the importance of “Standing in a room with people and doing something you believe in.” Following their substantiated session of British admonishment, they went into a poignant rendition of “Let Me Down” that despite Nashville’s no-EU association, The Staves’ displeasure with the ruling was undoubtedly palpable.
While the sold-out show may have been a “home court advantage” of sorts, if there were any speculative or cynical or asinine attendees, they were undoubtedly won over. As The Staves finish up their North American tour for 2016 and stick around “this side of the pond” until Christmas, try and familiarize yourself if you haven’t already so as to catch their next Nashville stop whenever that may be.
– Sean M.