Irish music's great white hope for 2009, Conor O'Brien & Co take to the stage at Crawdaddy for the third show of their first headline tour. To say that this band have been hyped up for 2009 would be an understatement, and often this level of attention can prove to be unnerving. Will this be the case for Villagers?
- The place is sold out, and even though a jam packed venue might usually imply drunken chatting and spilling of beer, very little of the sort is to be seen here. The air is ripe with anticipation and reverence, providing a perfect atmosphere for the band to manipulate as they may.
- I'm not familiar with many of Villagers songs, but my attention is grabbed with their first. O'Brien's lyrics challenge the audience to take what they will from his performance... but to bear in mind that it's a two way process, and that he's getting as much out of it as they are. What a brilliant way to start.
- The songs were perfectly formed. While the "Hollow Kind' EP is very good, it does not do the band justice enough.
- The whole mix is fantastic: Soft and steady acoustic guitar, demented electric lead, a constant reassuring organ hum, teasingly effective bass, admirably restrained drumming. All of this contributed significantly to the fact that these songs worked. Very well. And then there's the vocal...
- As a frontman, O'Brien is compelling. Every word is articulated perfectly, so the audience is at all times aware of the strength of the lyrics. Also, there's something weirdly honest about him. I felt like I trusted what he was saying.
- So... my jaw is pretty much rooted to the floor for the entire show. It was completely absorbing, even hypnotic. They took the audience's rapt attention and ran with it, from astonishingly impressive opening to fantastically raucous conclusion. I loved every minute.
- About halfway through the show, O'Brien was left alone on the stage to treat to audience of a solo version of 'Twenty-Seven Strangers'. This was the one point where the momentum faltered. The performance was still great, but the lyrics (about a bus breaking down) were the weakest of the night, and unfortunately owing to the style of play there was no hiding it.
- This is just nit-picking, but the new version of 'The Meaning of the Ritual' lacks the demented climax of the demo version, which I loved (the new version is still great though...).
In a nutshell, this was probably the best show I've ever seen by an Irish artist, and certainly the best gig I've seen in the last couple of years. They're playing this Saturday in Mullingar, and I will be going again. Roll on their debut album...
Villagers on myspace