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Angus and Julia Stone & The Staves - Eventim Apollo, London 16/12/14

22 December 2014, 13:24 | Written by Sarah Joy

Having just heard the phrase ‘blood harmonies’ for the first time, a sibling double bill of Angus and Julia Stone and support band The Staves was quite the introduction to the idea that vocals blend better where there is a familial bond.

It’s a remarkable phenomenon that normally would be shrugged off but with the two outstanding performances from brothers and sisters from worlds apart, one pair from Australia and the other trio from Watford, it’s a concept worth Googling.

Take for example The Staves, three sisters, who opened the evening at the newly named Eventim Apollo with a peek of material from their forthcoming and long awaited debut album If I Was that was helped into being this year by Bon Iver (or Justin Vernon) in his shed studio in icy Wisconsin.

As they edged up to the spotlit microphones, accompanied simply by one acoustic guitar and the occasional ukulele, their three voices truly became one. Melodic and nostalgic folk, there is something that harks back to the days of Woodstock with the long hair, unfolding stories and timeless notes.

Latest single “Blood I Bled” from their EP of the same name still got a look in, as did old favourite “Mexico”, whose simple fingerpicking created the perfect based for layers of angelic harmonies. With The Staves, it's kind of like watching a three-headed less neurotic Joni Mitchell perform. That is meant in a complimentary way, as they really are the epitome of aural beauty.

With some epic production in the lighting department, Angus and Julia Stone, the sibling powerhouse, pushed the delicacy of The Staves onto the back burner as the strobe filled intro of “A Heartbreak” hailed the arrival of some heavier strand of folk blues.

Everything about the Stones screams laid back surfer vibes, from the beanie hats and beards to the relaxed Americana-style whispering. Their songs are filled with references to teenage angst and could soundtrack even the most dramatic of OC episodes. Saying that is not an insult though, as their voices are extraordinary and their chord progressions perfectly devised for emotional effect.

Even with the input of the legendary Rick Rubin on their comeback joint album after spending some time doing solo projects, their united sound has remained fairly constant, honed on the road and in dive open mic bars around the very area the Apollo stands on. In between songs, the pair recounted these tales of the bohemian life before their big break where five of them lived in a one bed flat during the early days.

At one point Julia reverted back to her first instrument of trumpet on the jazzier "Private Lawns" as banjo accompanied her. It was these change ups that kept the entire show varied as musicians moved between piano, brass and strings with ease.

The classic cover of Grease’s “You’re The One That I Want” was met with a lot of love from the audience and it received a Christmas make over as crowd participation was encouraged in the form of “Ho Ho Ho’s” after the heart yearning chorus, which injected some humour to the otherwise lamenting rendition.

With a one-woman stage invasion and a lot of whopping for Angus Stone from female fans, the night was drawn to a surprisingly raucous close for what was expected to be a folky night. With two great acts on the same bill, it was evitable that a toss up in terms of performance would occur but with a double doses of these mystical blood harmonies, it was all around vocals that really stole the show.

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