Wednesday 21 February 2018

Review: Sounding a subtle vibe for equality

Indie Folk: Villagers, The Olympia, Dublin

Conor O'Brien, aka Villagers
Conor O'Brien, aka Villagers
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

This is a momentous week for Conor O'Brien, as his Villagers collective play two sold-out shows in the Olympia on the eve of the marriage equality referendum.

This wouldn't be a particularly pertinent issue for some artists, but O'Brien directly addresses his sexuality, and homophobia, on his new album Darling Arithmetic.

O'Brien hit the streets of Dublin earlier in the day to canvass for a Yes vote alongside comedian David O'Doherty and fellow Dublin troubadour The Mighty Stef.

But O'Brien does not indulge in any grandstanding during the first of a two-night stand.

However, the conviction of 'Hot Scary Summer' and 'Little Bigot' speak volumes.

His current album is his third consecutive number one in Ireland and is a much more meditative affair than its predecessors.

O'Brien has accordingly tweaked his band, which now features harp and double bass.

The set list is weighted towards the new material and tackles the back catalogue with a mellow and minimal approach.

Hits such as 'Nothing Arrived' benefit from this stripped back treatment. For an encore, O'Brien performs 'Becoming a Jackal' unaccompanied on his tiny acoustic, evoking pleasant memories of his appearance on Later with Jools Holland just over five years ago, when his musical adventure on the international stage began in earnest.

Conor concludes with the lead single from his current album, and a paean to resilience and inner strength, entitled 'Courage'. "It took a little time to be honest," O'Brien sings.

"It took a little time to be me."

It neatly sums up the Dún Laoghaire man's journey in becoming one of the brightest talents in modern Irish music.

Irish Independent

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