The Alternative Radio Coalition Was There - Still Corners in Paris:
If you’ve gone to a fair number of shows, you know what a deep relief it is when a band whose music you love sounds as good live as their studio recordings. That’s because at some point in the past, you’ve likely experienced the jarring opposite. A voice that effortlessly held the melody on a recording is thin and shaky on stage. Key elements that made a song catchy are stripped out for a “rawer” sound or drowned out altogether by a terrible sound set up. And you realize with a sinking feeling that a band you revered can’t pull off their music live.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case when I saw dream pop band Still Corners recently in Paris, one of dozens of stops on the band’s back-to-back Asia and Europe tours promoting last year’s Slow Air album. I play the group frequently on my ARC Overnight sets, and have often wondered if vocalist Tessa Murray’s velvet-smooth vocals and Greg Hughes’ lush arrangements translate just as well in a live performance.
It turns out the duo are as lovely to listen to on stage. This was especially true of Murray, who - with a stage presence that matches her siren-like voice-drew throngs of male fans to the front rows of the standing room-only crowd. Of course, some of them could have been there for guitarist Greg Hughes. He typically appears in only the briefest of cameos in the band’s videos, and brought an unexpected charisma on stage. Evocative at times of Lindsey Buckingham, Hughes gracefully dipped and flourished his guitar without distracting from Murray. Seeing Hughes play live gave me a heightened awareness of how fundamental guitar is to some of the band’s best songs.
In setting up their tour, Still Corners seems to have done so with the dual understanding that while adding some simple elements will enhance their live performances, most of their songs don't call for a radical reinterpretation live. The band has noted in past interviews that they bring their own sound person on tour, and for these most recent tours, they've also brought an actual drummer. Both are generally good additions to any live show. I don't know to what degree if any they controlled the stage lighting, but it was expertly run, bathing the performers in a beautiful palette of purple and red hues. Periodically, the band also made strategic use of prerecorded snippets; typically, anchor elements like the signature keyboard riff in “The Trip” and the chorus vocals for “Endless Summer."
The group passed the ultimate live performance test for me with Murray’s stage rendition of “Endless Summer." This is a song I have played over and over - on my ARC Overnight sets, in my car, in my home office - addicted to Murray’s deft vocal shifts from minor to major keys. Live, she opted to sing the song in a much lower octave, which changed the mood of it from wistful remembering to a more worldly longing. I could easily play this version on repeat, too.
Like many of their shows on the band’s current tour, this one sold out. Part of this could be the venue itself - “Petit Bain,” one of the many boats docked on the Seine River that have been repurposed into restaurants and bars with space for live performances. It’s a perfect venue for an act like Still Corners. But word has also obviously spread that seeing Still Corners live is as satisfying as listening to their albums.
The tours are also almost surely increasing their fame. At some point I seem to recall “The Trip” had several hundred thousands of views on YouTube; a more than respectable number for a band in the indie music space. A more recent check shows the views have since surpassed 45 million.
The Over-ARCing View:
"Still Corners is a duo that has merged atmospheric music and well-honed aesthetics into an act that is beautifully real and really beautiful to listen to, on and off the radio."
Review and photos by Stephanie Janard.
Stephanie Janard is a WNCW volunteer host for ARC Overnight. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org