The Stairs

The Stairs photo by Nathan Jones (click image for more)


“Thanks for coming down. Sorry for being so long about it,’ given that it’s been over twenty years for some since they had last seen The Stairs, the announcement from Edgar Summertyme when he takes to the stage is something of an understatement.

The band is back after a long hiatus and to celebrate that they are here in Manchester on the third of a five-date tour of the UK. Gorilla is the nearest venue to the band’s hometown and there were seemingly a good few that had made the trek across the M62 from Liverpool.

With a 10pm curfew and three bands performing, there is a quick turnover of acts. The openers Manchester’s Ethan and the Reformation take the stage just after the doors open. Those still heading to the venue miss a lean set from a young band that obviously have an impeccable record collection. Their influences are proudly displayed, both musically and by their attire.

‘Free from Everything’ their forthcoming release is the pick of the bunch. Its opening sitar guitar-driven sound is indicative of their overall style. I could have listened to the extended jam that the song morphed into for much longer, sadly the other bands are waiting to get on stage.

Next up is The Wicked Whispers, the main instigators in the reformation of The Stairs. They were out promoting their debut record ‘Maps of the Mystic’, an album that I have not yet bought, but on the evidence of what I heard tonight that oversight will soon be rectified. Their sound ploughs similar musical terrain as the support band. Plenty of 60s infused atmospherics and extended jams.

Michael Murphy, the lead singer of the Wicked Whispers returns to the stage to introduce the headliners and explain what influence The Stairs have had on his band. By the time the band makes it to the stage the room has filled to welcome them back.

It’s been a circuitous route in reforming The Stairs for bassist/vocalist Edgar ‘Summertyme’ Jones. In the intervening period, he has worked with a number of the great and the good, Paul Weller and Johnny Marr to name but a few. He’s formed a number of great bands that had the potential to make it big, The Joneses, The Big Kids, The Isrites. Plus there’s an interesting solo career on the Viper Label to look back at too, but it’s The Stairs that have lived long in the memory.

It is good to see that the original three-piece is intact including, Ged Lynn (guitar/vocals) and Paul Maguire (drums). Multi-instrumentalist Austin Murphy, who helps to bulk out the live sound, has also joined them for this tour.

They open with ‘Mary Joanna’ from their debut album ‘Mexican RnB’ and even before the first note is rung the crowd are clearly delighted to see the band live again.

the stairs

The Stairs

The set comprises of a number of songs from their debut, a number of lost classics that have appeared on anthologies and bootlegs. Much has changed in the years since they’ve been away. ‘I can’t believe how deep the vocals were; I could have sworn they were higher,’ Summertyme says as he says that he’s had difficulty getting his head around the old tunes. It certainly doesn’t sound like it. The voice maybe 20 years older, but it’s still the recognisable bluesy growl from the early record.

‘Russian RnB’ is a fun tune on the record, live it works really well. The middle-eastern keyboard riff and the reprise sound are great. The “Oi” in the middle offers the chance of a bit of audience interaction.

It’s all sounding great on the floor, but occasionally Edgar appears to be having issues with his lead or bass guitar, that necessitates a few visits from the roadie in-between songs. It seems to be perturbing the lead singer, but whatever the issue is, it’s not noticeable in the audience.

‘Right at the Back of My Mind’ is an extended jam that’s all Doors’ keyboard swirls. There is also a segment of Gloria in the middle. This was almost ten minutes long and I could have easily listened to ten minutes more of it.

The band has obviously not been content to mine their older material tonight; they play a couple of newer numbers. Guitarist Ged gets to sing one of them, ‘Shit Town’ which he describes as our “recent silly single”. ‘Skin up for me Baby’ is greeted like the lost classic it is. It’s taken from the aborted second album, a song that hinted the sound of the band shifting towards something that was influenced by Cream. It sounds excellent played live tonight.

They return for one more, despite crashing the curfew. It seems in doubt that they’ll get to play their last number, thankfully they are allowed to play ‘Weed Bus’, which is proceeded by the front man adapting a southern American drawl to discuss the finer points of the song. This is a knowledgeable crowd who seem to know all the songs tonight, but this is the one that still packs the punch and sends the audience home having been thoroughly entertained. That’s not just by the headliners, but all three bands.

It’s great to see them back and here’s hoping for more from the band in the next few years. Here’s hoping too that Edgar Summertyme (and The Stairs) finally gets the wider recognition that’s been a long time coming.

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