Villagers – Live in Falmouth.
This was one of the most mesmerising shows I’ve seen in a while. I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Villagers having only heard a few songs on 6music over the years but I came away a converted Villagers fan.
Opening the show was Luke Sital-Singh, I knew of Luke but had never heard his music and was glad I’d got there early to see him play.
I was shooting the gig for the West Briton and you can see Lee Trewhela’s review here and also below.
Review by Lee Trewhela.
I was expecting a pleasant gig, you know, nothing groundbreaking; a harmonious couple of hours but an experience largely forgotten in a couple of days.
While Being A Jackal and Awayland, the first two albums by Conor O’Brien – for he is Villagers – were beguiling beasts, clever and cool enough to both be Mercury nominated, they were slightly too clever and layered for me.
He’s stripped it all back on his first masterpiece (you feel after the hushed glories of Darling Arithmetic, released two days before the Falmouth concert, anything is possible in the future) and even that new album was reinvented in what actually turned out to be a remarkable show.
Luke Sital-Singh, no stranger to Cornwall including a stunning appearance in the church at Port Eliot last summer, soared on a series of proclaimed “depressing” songs. In self-deprecating fashion – he sat on a Falmouth beach in the sun, he said, wishing for winter – Luke recalls the likes of Jeff Buckley and Ryan Adams; hymns to broken hearts, in other words, but with a soaring voice which leaves you catching a breath. Last year’s The Fire Inside album is a must-purchase, or must-stream if you’re of the refuse-to-pay generation.
Some of us thought Luke would be a tough act to follow, but we hadn’t reckoned on the tiny Irishman and his simpatico band – a drummer/trumpeter, double bassist, keyboard player and his wooshes of luminous sound, and a harpist/keyboard player.
Together they were wondrous – the sound was crystal clear and enveloping (thanks to the analogue desk?), helped by it being a seated gig, stopping the infamous Pavilion chatter. Though one woman shouted: “I love you.” “It’s reciprocated,” said the shy songwriter. “OMG,” she shouted. “I take it back,” he replied. How we laughed ….
The songs on Darling Arithmetic are all about love, whether universal (the utterly immersive So Naive), the personal (the ghostly country caress of Everything I Am Is Yours) or even an attack on those who hate love (the beautifully sequenced run of Little Bigot and Hot Scary Summer, with its brilliant verse “Remember kissing on the cobblestones / In the heat of the night / And all the pretty young homophobes / Looking out for a fight”).
Because of the nature of the tracks there was an intimacy here (helped by the minimal onstage lamp light), rarely achieved at regular “rock” gigs. The spectral lullaby Dawning On Me even brought tears to my eyes.
Material from his previous albums was rebooted to fit the mood. The Waves, all synth and guitar-heavy tumescence on Awayland, still rose to a spine-tingling, powerful denouement, but largely through acoustic instruments. It was all the more powerful for the change.
Villagers are a salve for the soul and with this gig O’Brien proved he sells a song with a similar spiritual grace as Van Morrison, REM and Rufus Wainwright did before him.