Review: The Civil Wars and The Staves in Covington

The Staves (left) and The Civil Wars at Madison Theater
The Staves (left) and The Civil Wars at Madison Theater

On any given evening there is a crowd somewhere being forced to sit anxiously through an awful opening act. Then there are nights where concert-goers become wrapped up in the opening act. They become so enthralled that they call out for one more song, not minding that they are delaying the band they paid good money to see and hear.

The Civil Wars' sold-out concert at Madison Theater in Covington on Jan. 14 was one of those rare performances. And The Staves were that kind of opening act.—-

Pre-show chatter about The Staves consisted mostly of questions. Who were they? What did they sound like? Were they good? The three sisters captured the crowd and kept them captivated from the very first time they leaned into their microphones and sang out in perfect harmony. All eyes stayed glued to the pretty English girls, with their fancy accents and mugs of tea (or maybe whiskey). They joked through “awkward tunings,” tried on their best American accents and sang their lungs out for the crowd. In return, they won hearts and shouted compliments.

After their short performance, Madison Theater echoed with words like, “angelic” and “beautiful.” Accurate enough.  Yet it doesn’t do justice to those three voices. They sound like Disney Princesses. Princesses sing with sweetness and innocence. Every song is a lullaby. The music of The Staves is no different.  Some lyrics may lack innocence, but their voices are golden and untarnished. They are enchanting … and certainly a tough act to follow.

When The Civil Wars hit the stage it was to an applause that never seemed to die. The beginning of each song caused an uproar of excitement. The crowd laughed for every flick of Joy Williams dainty wrist and every half-amused smile John Paul White shot back. They are an endless soundtrack of oohs, ahhs, and whimpers that continuously draw their fans closer.

For The Civil Wars, the show was predictably good. They sang songs off their debut album, Barton Hallow, that sounded just as perfect as the recorded versions. And the setlist also included their unique covers of songs by Michael Jackson and The Smashing Pumpkins.

The only downfall was their performance of “Poison and Wine.” It seemed intentionally sped up and rushed. Much like the entire night, it was over too soon. However, both bands crammed an overwhelming amount of good music into their time at Madison Theater, so it’s an easily forgiven flaw. Roughly 1,200 people left feeling their money was well-spent, and many likely also left with a new favorite band. That’s a good night in Covington.

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