The Castle & Falcon
Review by Mark Wakeman
On a rather nondescript Monday night and with the news dominated by the Coronavirus it was nice to see a totally packed Castle and Falcon eager to witness the return of The Staves after a while away. The girls have played much bigger venues than this such as the main room at Birmingham Institute so it was no surprise that this gig sold out very quickly.
Support act was young London singer songwriter Matilda Mann. Like a number of acts playing with just an electric guitar there was an inclination for some of the songs to sound samey especially as Matilda had a rather quiet almost whispered vocal. That said the already large crowd listened to her set intently and seemed to appreciate her music.
Matilda’s lyrics had a nice bite to them especially the wonderfully cynical ‘The Fucking Best’. Songs such as ‘Pure Madness’ from her debut EP ‘If That Makes Sense’ were interspersed with new songs such as ‘Brighton Beach’.
‘Clockwork Depression’ was written about Ross and Rachel from Friends. For those not old enough to have remembered friends – Ross was the intelligent, lovable, goofy one who got married several times and Rachel was the one whose haircut lots of late 1990’s girls copied.
‘Never Sweeter’ was the first song she had ever released and her compact set was ended with ‘Loch Ness Monster’. Matilda’s set had a nice lo-fi feel to it but I think to get a better appreciation of the intricacies of her music then I’d need to see her with a full band or listen to her recordings.
The Staves aka the Staveley-Taylor sisters from Watford, well Jessica and Camilla as Emily is taking a break from the band having recently had a baby daughter, took to the stage supported by four male musicians including Marcus Hamblett who recently supported and played with Rachael Dadd at another gig I reviewed.
The girls have been away recording material for their fourth studio album and wanted to do a short tour to test run a bunch of new songs and no doubt get themselves back into the public domain. Playing smaller venues than usual which they knew they would fill made perfect sense.
The band launched into an impressive set of new songs including ‘Failure’, ‘Next Year Next Time’ and ‘Devotion’. Jessica and Camilla’s vocal were superb with impressive backing from their band. It was clear that the girls were having a good time and were excited to present their new material. It might have been preaching to the converted but the capacity crowd also lapped it up.
They turned back the clock with ‘Make It Holy’ the standout track from their 2015 second album ‘If I Was’. ‘Satisfied’, another song yet to make it on record but which they have been playing live for a couple of years really got the crowd going before the girls slowed things down as the guys departed the stage. Jessica and Camilla then performed the totally gorgeous ‘Nothings Gonna Happen’ which they had released as a demo version at the end of last year.
The guys returned for the sing-along ‘Mexico’ from their debut album ‘Dead and Born and Grown’. There was a bit of self deprecating mocking between the girls and about the absent Emily.
‘Best Friend’ was in my view the standout new track but all the newer material seemed to hold it’s own against the smattering of old tunes. ‘Blood I Bleed’, which was the opening track off ‘If I Was’, was lapped up by the now completely hooked audience.
Two final new songs ‘Careful Kid’ and ‘Good Woman’, with shades of Fleetwood Mac’ were aired before the 70 minute 12 song set was rounded off with ‘Teeth White’, again from ‘If I Was’.
This gig was very much to present new songs and no doubt when they return to support the new album there will be an expanded set to include more favourites but this was a perfect intimate tester of their new material.