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Marlay Park, Dublin

VILLAGERS headlining Marlay Park feels like the culmination of a year that started with an appearance on 'Jools Holland' and finished with an Ivor Novello award.

It's all gone wonderfully right for the debut album outing from a little guy from Dun Laoghaire.

It's all the more impressive that he manages to stage a headline set that weighs in at just shy of an hour-and-a-half, which is excellent going considering he has just one album in the bag. More impressive still is the fact he can command a large crowd's attention for his new material with songs 'Beatitudes' and 'Memoir' improving with every rendition.

Villagers' big show production and elaborate lighting has never been seen outside their recent stadium tour with the arena-conquering Elbow. It works a treat and suggests there's plenty more big stage action to come from Conor O'Brien and company.

The Ivor Novello-winning 'Becoming a Jackal' is a genuinely spine-tingling moment as a tent full of thousands sing along. It neatly illustrates that while Villagers are not destined for ubiquitous status, they've already crossed over considerably with a number one Irish album, a mantelpiece full of gongs and nominations, and most importantly, a loyal and committed fanbase. Also terrifically effective is the show-stealing 'Pieces', which builds up into a crescendo of noise.

O'Brien's faintly ridiculous comment about howling like a jackal at the song's climax even starts to make some sense.

O'Brien introduces the band warmly and signs off with a spirited rendition of 'Ship of Promises', before thanking everyone for sharing this incredible journey. It's the end of the first chapter of the Villagers story. Up until now, it's all been about 'Becoming A Jackal'.

What that jackal grows into next could get very exciting.

Irish Independent