Following the release of Villagers’s new album, Darling Arithmetic, his return to live performances can only be described as triumphant.
The whole atmosphere felt chilled and at ease. With the performance taking place at the new theatre in the RNCM, the wonderful acoustics of the room provide the perfect complement to the music being played.
Their new music is stripped back and lyrically intimate. Although Darling Arithmetic is a breakup album, it touches upon frontman Conor O’Brien’s dealings with gay relationships and homophobia (‘Courage’ and ‘Little Bigot’), making the show feel, at times, cathartic. Lyrics such as “It took a little time to be me” on ‘Courage’ were able to give the new material a poignant edge. It felt almost uncomfortable to hear him sing something so personal to himself, but the honesty was both appreciated and rewarding! It was also wise to allow the rest of the band to leave at points during the show; it made sense for songs as intimate as those from Darling Arithmetic to be played solo.
Older material from Awayland and Becoming A Jackal was also revamped with new arrangements. It can be a difficult task to keep old material fresh, one that is easy to mess up, but Villagers achieved this with ease. The new versions managed to both stay true to the originals, whilst still being playful and inventive with the inclusion of horns and even a harp. It’s genuinely refreshing to be able to see such confidence in a performance.
Overall, Villagers were a success. If O’Brien can regularly pull off gigs as good as this one, then he has a long career ahead of him!