Thursday 18 January 2018

Review: Villagers - A Subtle Vibe for Equality

Villagers aka Conor O'Brien
Villagers aka Conor O'Brien
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 Irish 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. However, he doesn't indulge in any grandstanding during the first of a two night stand, but 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 his back catalogue with a mellow and more minimal approach.

Conor O'Brien Villagers
Conor O'Brien Villagers

Hits such as ‘Nothing Arrived' benefit from such a 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 to become one of the brightest talents in modern Irish music.

Villagers aka Conor O'Brien
Villagers aka Conor O'Brien

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