Live Review: The Staves with Little Hours at Dublin Olympia – 6th May 2015

By on Monday, 11th May 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

For more photos from this show, head to my Flickr.

Probably much like people from outside DC think of the 9:30 as a venerated institution, the original location being the live birthplace of punk pioneers Fugazi, I’ve always held the Olympia Theatre in Dublin in high esteem. As an R.E.M. fan, how could I not, them having recording ‘Live at the Olympia’ during a 5-night residency there in 2007? I was a tourist in the Irish capital for a few days last week and I had to take a moment when I stumbled out of Temple Bar onto Dame Street and saw the maroon signs for the theatre. This trip has definitely been filled with those kind of moments: if there was a motto for my time over here so far, it would be “don’t go looking for inspiration, it will find you.”

Wednesday night began with a short set by Little Hours, John Doherty on lead vocals and piano and Ryan McCloskey on guitar and backing vocals. You might never have heard of them outside Ireland, but I reckon you soon will: despite their relatively young age, they were nominated for songwriting in their home country’s Meteor Music Awards (the Irish equivalent to the BRITs and Grammys), which saw them shortlisted alongside Eire’s household names Hozier, Kodaline, The Script, The Coronas and The Delorentos. They’ve also been named by Irish music magazine Hot Press as a Hot for 2015 Ones to Watch group.

There is obvious appeal to the BBC Radio 1 and even possibly the older leaning Radio 2 crowd: this is thoughtful but still highly accessible pop from two British and Irish Modern Music Institute graduates, with piano and guitar complementing each other well with Doherty’s gentle vocal style reminiscent of both Damien Rice and Steve Garrigan of Kodaline (the latter especially on ‘Tired’). The pair released their first self-titled EP just last year, toured this month with previous TGTF Band to Watch Hudson Taylor and have announced their recent signing with the RCA arm of Sony, so expect great things from them.

‘Crossfire’ and ‘Ember’ were set highlights, the banged piano chord and melodic notes with Doherty’s expressive voice proving memorable. They also proved self-deprecating, both saying how they hadn’t met the Staves – yet – but explained they were proper fanboys of the sisters and couldn’t believe they were sharing a stage with them. I hope they eventually did get an audience with them!

The Staveley-Taylor sisters – Camilla, Emily and Jessica – are no strangers to Dublin, and that was clear when the cheering started as soon as they took to the stage. The best singer/songwriter acts are those than connect easily with their audience, and the sisters had no trouble with that. They easily related the stories behind their songs and an early visit to Dublin to play their first appearance on Irish television, and their trepidation of performing the ever so sweet ‘Facing West’ with sister Emily’s whistling chops after a particularly dreary panel discussion of the Holocaust. I was a bit taken aback by all their swearing, but I think this only served to further endear them to their fans at the Olympia, as if in some weird way it proved their street cred went beyond their good girl physical appearances.

The Staves’ second album released at the end of March on Atlantic Records, ‘If I Was’, was recorded in the dead of a Midwest winter with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. This year’s album was preceded by the ‘Blood I Bled’ EP last autumn; the rich, evocative EP title track opened the evening on a wonderful night that showed off their now eclectic, burgeoning song catalogue. They pointed out just how scared they were to be snowbound and isolated in America in writing ‘The Shining’, inspired by a watching of the horror film based on the Stephen King novel, yet you can’t help but notice that they do enjoy a song to exorcise the demons of past failed relationships (‘No Me, No You, No More’, ‘Let Me Down’).

Newer bluesy number ‘Black and White’ showed off the harder side of the Staves, while older song ‘Mexico’, probably receiving the biggest cheers of the night, served as a reminder of the gorgeous sisterly harmonies from where the Staves originally made their name. Another set standout was ‘Teeth White’, initially sounding like an exercise in self-loathing; it quickly comes across as a positive message to all girls who have tired too hard to please a boy (“I got my hair long, but it’s still wrong”), only to be disappointed. Instead of dwelling too unduly on the mistakes made, the song insists that life is too short and you have to put yourself first.

Alas, the evening had to come to an end, but I doubt the Staves would have been content to leave us without breaking our hearts first. An a capella version of ‘Wisely and Slow’, followed by the everlastingly beautiful ‘Winter Trees’ finished me off. I don’t come to tears too often at shows, so it’s a testament to the Staveley-Taylor sisters’ talent that I walked out into the chilly Dublin night with my heart breaking and aching in all the right places and the wonderful feeling of being alive.

The Staves’ Set List:
Blood I Bled
Steady
Open
No Me, No You, No More
Let Me Down
Horizons
Black and White
Damn It All
The Shining
Don’t You Call Me
Mexico
Facing West
Teeth White
Make It Holy
//
Wisely and Slow (a capella)
Winter Trees

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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