Live: Villagers @ Deaf Institute, Manchester

Photo: Enda Doran -

Photo: Enda Doran -

Villagers have been around for a wee while now, causing hubbub in the most remote corners of the music world, one such corner being the little known TV show, ‘Later… With Jools Holland’. Playing to a full to the brim Deaf Institute in Manchester, Conor O’Brien and his band proved why they are next in line for folky stardom.

The show is opened with the beautiful ‘The Meaning of the Ritual’, a slow and hesitant choice for the first song of the night. Despite its shortcomings in impact however, ‘The Meaning…’ proves to be a hit with the enthusiastic audience Villagers had drawn in from the balmy Manchester streets. The reverent atmosphere set by this particular favourite was duly rewarded with the song’s gorgeously emotive ending, which sees O’Brien worked up into a baying frenzy that eases off in an unsettling, yet appealing manner.

Throughout the evening, Villagers remain loyal to material from recent release, Becoming A Jackal, including the record’s eponymous single. The song proves to be highly popular amongst onlookers, who seem to be familiar with both the song’s odd lyrics and its equally surreal video that was released alongside it. Villagers’ material is reliably cinematic in its lyricisms, something further enhanced by O’Brien’s emotional performance of songs such as ‘Set the Tigers Free’ and ‘Home’. However, the highlight of the evening had to be the glorious ‘Pieces’. Striking both on record and when performed live, ‘Pieces’ is heart-wrenching and desperate, and when casting an eye around the Deaf Institute’s music hall, it was easy to spot more than a few empathetic observers of O’Brien’s pent-up frustrations.

From tonight, it’s clear why this pint-sized songsmith is being likened to the sorts of Bright Eyes and Fionn Regan. Villagers’ live performance is equally as passionate and spine-tingling as those who have been taking to the stages of Britain year in, year out, and here’s hoping that Conor O’Brien won’t be stopping anytime soon, his talent knows no bounds.

Words: Mary Machin

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