CQAF: The Staves & Ciaran Lavery – Festival Marquee, Belfast

CiaranLaverybyPaulWoods-2652Following on from The Stranglers and The Charlatans the latest band to grace the stage of the Festival Marquee at the 16th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival were English band The Staves.

If you just turned up in time to see The Staves you would have missed out on CQAF “Artist in Residence”, local singer songwriter, Ciaran Lavery. Dressed in his new suit and minus the fireworks and pyrotechnics that would normally be part of his own headline show (Ciaran’s words, not mine) he showed why he has become so popular in the music scene, both at home and across the water.

For me the rasp in the voice just brings you in and makes you listen. He has such an engaging way with his audience which is good to see and to finish his short but very enjoyable set he put down the guitar and sang unaccompanied. You could have heard a pin drop. There is no doubt you will see him back at future festivals.

TheStavesbyPaulWoods-2701The Marquee at the CQAF had a magical starry night feel about it which was ultimately very fitting for the occasion. The Staves are English sister trio Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley – Taylor and they delivered a performance that was full of perfect harmonies, heartfelt lyrics and great songs of both pain and hope. Having previous spent time on the road with critically acclaimed artists The Civil Wars and Bon Ivor in 2012 the band are now undoubtedly a headline act in their own right.

With the backing musicians filling out the band’s sound perfectly they opened the show with “Blood I Bled” from their latest long player “If I Was”. From the first chord the band had the large crowd drawn in and managed to retain that undivided attention for the full length of the set. TheStavesbyPaulWoods-2742They followed up with the majority of tracks from the new album sprinkled with a number of tracks from the 2012 release Dead & Born & Grown. As with Ciaran Lavery they had a great ability in engaging with the audience and there is no doubt that will always endear the band to the paying public. The audience was a mix of age groups and it is proof, if proof was needed, that good music will always transcend the generations.

It’s hard to start thinking about what were the highlights of the show, as there were so many. The latest single “Black and White” would sit well on any Zero 7 album and that is testament to the quality of songs the girls have penned. It felt genuinely like you were taking that trip to “Mexico” with the soft vocals blending in easily with that magical backdrop of the Festival Marquee.

My highlight of the evening was “Teeth White” from the current album. It has been one of those songs that just hit me from the first time I heard the album and hearing TheStavesbyPaulWoods-2865it live has done nothing to lessen my love for the song. I don’t think there is any point trying to delve deeper into why some songs do what they do, it’s just one of those that you just sit back and enjoy.

The encore came in the form of “Facing West” and “Winter Trees” and it rounded of what was a fabulous show and undoubtedly one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

My advice to you is that if you haven’t seen The Staves yet, make a point of going when they return and if you have seen them, then go again. Next time though there is a good chance the Festival Marquee may not be big enough, that’s how good they are. Michael Ferguson, GiggingNI.com