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Entertainment | music | Reviews

Review: Villagers, Brixton Electric, London

Villagers
Conor J.O’Brien of Villagers

Villagers
Brixton Electric, London
(May 21)

IT MIGHT be the smaller capacity, cooler little brother of the nearby 02 Academy, but there’s no disregarding Villager’s impressive feat that, tonight – Brixton Electric is packed to the rafters.

It’s an achievement matched by the equally rich tones of frontman Conor J. O’Brien.

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Tonight we get his full range, as he starts with keyboard player Cormac Curran for a stirring performance of Nothing Arrived. For the second song, a guitarist walks out. The full five-piece cavalry joins for the third.

Songs from the band’s second album, {Awayland}, sound fresh and show the evolved sound the Villagers have developed since 2010’s Becoming A Jackal.

From tracks like Passing Message, withits sinister synth lines and upbeat rhythm, to recent single, The Bell, where Conor bashes the drums manically, guitar slung around his shoulder.

The only grating moments of an otherwise great live show are nothing to do with Villagers.

The crowd chatter around the back of the venue and at the bars is noticeable, even from standing at the front under an enormous stacked amp.

The hushed awe which would have done justice to the opener was lacking, and while drums shimmered on the slower Grateful Song, I couldn’t help wondering what Van Morrison might make of it all.

Conor, short and too sweet to say anything, leaves any growling to his performance as he bellows red-faced through Judgement Call and on to a rapturous finish to the set.

The group’s encore starts with 2011 ballad Cecelia & Her Selfhood, incorporating peculiar but vivid storytelling in the final line: “is that a smile on her face or a hammer in her hand?”

In their unpredictable way, Villagers bookend their eventful set – where earlier a play fight breaks out on stage as the coy keyboardist Cormac seems reluctant to celebrate his birthday –  with Nothing Arrived, the first time this author has seen a band open and close on the same song.

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