The 11th March 2023 was a pig of a day.
Travelling down the M62, visibility was at a premium but as I hit civilization in Liverpool I knew that with just a short hop across the water, the promise of shining light was awaiting me. Emerging from the Mersey tunnel, dark satanic skies enveloped the environs of Birkenhead giving the town an empty and eerie feel (fill in your own jest). I parked up outside the wonderfully named Scandals Adult Superstore, and despite questioning the wisdom of the move should some discerning gentleman be unable to curb his desires until he got home and use my vehicle as a pleasure shield (ahem), it was just across the road from Future Yard and given the weather I took it as a chance worth risking. As I dashed across Argyle Street I summoned up the spirit of Travis Bickle and should my fear be realised, hoped that tonight “a real rain will come and wash all this (s)cum off my car”…or something.
I digress, safely ensconced inside I bumped into Peter Kevan who documents much of the wonderful music the Scouse and the ‘wool’ sides have to offer via his YouTube channel. Check it out. We discussed the travesty of the (soon to be playing at Future Yard) Boo Radleys reforming without songwriter/guitarist Martin Carr’s input and other local musical matters of note before venturing inside to catch support band Tramp Attack. They aren’t really my bag but they seemed to go down well with the growing audience inside the venue, very country driven (this is Charlie Landsborough territory after all) with a humorous twist.
The anticipation for the return of The Stairs was at a fever pitch, not least because this event was originally scheduled for 16th December 2022 but due to unforeseen circumstances it was postponed (rumours that the melting ice caps and frisky whales had prevented Icelandic resident Paul Maguire from making the journey across the North Sea were unfounded) but now they were ready to assail us with their glorious thunderous garage sounds.
The original three amigos Edgar Jones, Ged Lynn and Paul Maguire arrived with little fanfare alongside Austin Murphy who has been part of The Stairs set up since 2015 when moonlighting from The Fernweh. They launched into the Jumpin’ Jack Flash-like riff of Mary Joanna and the immaculate and crystal clear Future Yard sound helped illustrate that Edgar was in wonderful form vocally and Ged’s first wig out was a suitably celebratory cascade. The instrumental intro to instantly recognisable Flying Machine echoed around the Yard and it was becoming apparent that The Stairs in 2023 are as vital and shit-hot tight as they ever were (when they weren’t bongoed and banjaxed of course). Mr Window Pane with its echoes of Shack’s Sgt Major was followed by a wonderfully demented cover of the fun and frantic Russian Spy and I by The Hunters. The stoned classic Take No Notice of the World Outside was wonderfully rendered with an understated vocal from Edgar driven along by his superb bass work and Paul’s rumbling rat-a-tat drumming. Indeed, having such a mesmerisingly wonderful metronomic engine room embellished with Ged’s psychedelic flourishes was what was driving The Stairs towards the stars tonight. The slightly unsettling Out in the Country pulsed along in a vaguely threatening manner with Edgar whooping and hollering over the outro. Conversely, the mellow vibe of Sweet Thing continued the ascent before Austin Murphy took over with some wonderfully bluesy harp playing that dominated the pounding You Don’t Love Me, You Don’t Care, Edgar hollering like a Scouse Lizard King as the song stomped along like Roadhouse Blues on amphetamines. The driving I Can Only Give You Everything ends a fearsome ten-song streak with little by way of audience interaction until Edgar introduces Paul in Icelandic, or some approximation, and announces that the next song is a cover, but it’s not just any cover because a thunderous My Little Red Book is entirely appropriate given the early Love influence seeping through much of The Stairs’ oeuvre. Similarly, the early Stones influence is apparent on the throbbing When It All Goes Wrong whilst the deceptive pastoral opening of Laughter in Their Eyes gives way to the wonderful descending riff that wouldn’t sound out of place in The Saint, The Prisoner or The Persuaders, so grounded is it in all that was singular and sonorous about the Sixties. This evening it was stunning and blew away gobsmacked Birkenhead.
Ged took over vocal duties for wackily wistful renditions of Shit Town and Mr Joke Shop Owner raising the spectre of Syd’s psychedelic moments when the Floyd were in their pomp. A monstrous bludgeoning, bombastic riff opened the epic What You Have Become(as yet unreleased) which was a highlight tonight whilst Taxman-like stylings wafted from over the Mersey and deposited themselves in Woman Gone and Say Goodbye. Edgar’s perma-smile, front and centre and bass across his chest had led proceedings tonight but every member of The Stairs got to take a step in the spotlight, Ged with his songs and sparkling guitars, Austin with his heavy harmonica playing and now Stop Messin’ saw Paul pummelling out an incredible and mes-mersey-ising drum solo. As if to emphasise that The Stairs are very much the sum of their parts, an epic Jimi channelling Skin Up had Jones growling over the top of a quite glorious force of nature racket and it was jaw-dropping in its brilliance…and yet, unbelievably, the best was still to come. The day-tripping Fall Down the Rain soon segued into an astonishing garage thrashed Right in the Back of Your Mind before the guitar break conjured up all sorts of apocalyptic visions, Shamanic shrieks and finally a further segue at its apogee into Them’s Gloria. It was a startlingly claustrophobic aural assault that scrambled the senses… and then they were gone.
Like Stockholm Syndrome sufferers, battered and bruised Birkenhead demanded more, and so The Stairs returned to dash through the beautiful melancholy of Mundane Mundae and a bouncing Starlight, Edgar, all guttural caterwauling like a world-weary bluesman over the tumultuous twisted tempo shifts that once more got the crowd howling (wolf). It was inevitable that cult classic Weed Bus would send us out into the cold night but Edgar announced that in a departure from the norm, it would be delivered in the style of Level 42. After beginning to act out the threat it materialised that he was messing and the conventional magnificence of the call and response greatness that is Weed Bus completed a quite remarkable and glorious night.
What a comeback.
The Stairs posters advertising the Future Yard gigs should have declared ‘Here to make bands half our age look shit’ because tonight they were princely and impeccable, playfully impeachable and profoundly unassailable. Edgar’s final missive from the stage suggested they wouldn’t leave it as long next time. Good, because tomorrow can’t come too soon. The Stairs have fabulous songs, and fantastic musicians and it is no surprise Lee Mavers looked forlornly for Sixties stardust on the various mixing desks he employed, it seems like The Stairs had hoovered it all up.
When this happening happens again, you need to beg, steal or mug a granny for a ticket. Do whatever you can, because The Stairs are a uniquely wonderful carriageway to the stars, and their trips to planet Earth are far too infrequent but fucking fabulous.
Prince Far Out
(At the car wash)