VILLAGERS //

Trinity, Bristol | February 16th

You know within minutes if it’s going to be ‘one of those’ gigs: when you’re watching an artist whose star is not only in the ascendance, but is leaving a trail of scorched earth behind them. 

Conor O’Brien – the central force and sole songwriter behind Villagers – is a vocalist as unassumingly accomplished as Bon Iver, and Villagers now have two albums’ worth of off-kilter, swirling alt-folk for him to play with. A man of few niceties, O’Brien nevertheless has everyone’s full, total and unconditional attention. As he begins a lengthy, languid set with My Lighthouse, the gentle ballad that opens new album {Awayland}, a man eating a bag of crisps too loudly gets shushed. People glare at the bar staff for clinking glasses. The audience are in awe of the band in front of them. And although this level of reverence can be stifling, it’s also deserved: Villagers combine deceptively simple ingredients to satisfyingly rich effect.

On paper, they could be another plodding folk-rock act but with the same deft touch for arrangement and melody as a band like Other Lives, Villagers rise resolutely above the fray. As well as recent singles Nothing Arrived and The Waves, the best cuts from 2011’s Becoming a Jackal are offered up – the bittersweet That Day, and a show-stealing encore of Ship of Promises, a hypnotic, softly sinister and muscular piece that remains their finest moment. O’Brien is master storyteller and Villagers are a soulful, restless, chamber-folk delight and truly, a pleasure to behold.

 

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Words: Adam Corner

wearevillagers.com

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