With the announcement in December that the proposed Villagers gig In the Savoy, Cork, would not go ahead, there was a moment of concern and disappointment. This minor glitch in their tour plans would prove to be a blessing in disguise, with the intervention of The Everyman Theatre providing the most idyllic and intimate setting for a gig that would leave revellers enchanted by a band that seems to be getting better with age.
Opening Sunday night’s proceedings with the soft and subtle Memoir, frontman Conor O’Brien shows his appreciation for his surroundings by declaring, “This is much better than the Savoy” . A notion reciprocated by the crowd.
The opening song would set the tone for the evening, with O’Brien and the rest of the band delivering a night of musical diligence that slowly progressed through the gears, provoking thought and emotion at every turn. Memoir, a song originally written for Charlotte Gainsbourg a few years back, and now released on the Villagers’ new album Where Have You Been All My Life, was delivered so impeccably I almost dropped my camera over the balcony, having forgot to put the strap around my neck. From that moment, I knew something special was developing.
Returning to my seat after the first quartet of songs, I’d usually get the odd stare from people in the crowd, on this occasion there wasn’t even a glance. The sheer quality of musicianship on display was enough to captivate the capacity crowd, and with a perfect blend of songs old, and new, there was simply nothing that could distract them. Between each song the sense of anticipation demonstrated by the cordial silence was noted by the frontman, when he acknowledged the problem with Villagers’ gigs being that, “You can’t even fart”. Exhibiting his engaging and jovial nature.
We then take a trip down memory lane with, I Saw the dead, The Pact, and a stripped down version of Nothing Arrived with Harp melodies incorporated beautifully by Mali Llywelyn. With the lion’s share of the pleasure seeking audience mouthing the words of an emotional Twenty Seven Strangers, it’s apparent Villagers have amassed quite the following over the years. Followed by The Waves and an entrancing rendition of Glen Campbell’s Witchita Lineman – which had everyone in the room brimming with elation, the hour and an half set was packed with quality and the odd surprise too.
As we neared the end of the show, we were treated to a slow building version of That Day which clawed and teased at the usually exuberant “Can you hear me now?” until our patience was rewarded with its flawless release. The personal and profound Courage from the last album Darling Arithmetic, brought proceedings to a close on a night that will be hard to top at The Everyman for quite some time. With a double standing ovation at the end thoroughly deserved, and on the opening night of a tour when hiccups are expected, Villagers delivered an unsullied musical masterclass.
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Where Have You Been All My Life is available from usual outlets and on digital.