Villagers, Shepherds Bush Empire, 21 May 2011

Photo: Gina Morris

Having recently played the Camden Crawl and Great Escape, the Irish act Villagers were ready to entertain the London masses at Shepherds Bush Empire.

The evening started with support from former Magic Numbers bassist, Michele Stodart, who performed a selection of folk-driven acoustic tracks.

Entering the stage with a beautiful array of acoustic solo songs including Cecelia, Conor J O’Brien (aka Villagers) dazzled us with his voice on this sunny Saturday evening.

Shepherds Bush Empire was nicely full with a polite British crowd and as the keyboardist accompanied O’Brien for Ship of Promises they warmed up the venue to an excited reception.

Moving into a great folk set with short flashes of heavy rock, they played more intense and slightly eerie singles, Home and That Day.

The biggest hit, Becoming A Jackal, was played out brilliantly – with the single having recently been awarded an Ivor Novello for Best Track musically and lyrically!

O’Brien as the creator and frontman is a sweet and perfect vocalist who tells epic stories and poetry throughout his songs, with support from a full band.

Moving into the rest of the album released last year, songs such as The Meaning Of The Ritual and Twenty Seven Strangers slowed the pace.

As they share a record label with other unique new acts such as Wild Beasts, Anna Calvi and Austra, it highlights the way Domino Records are pushing the music industry in a different direction to the mainstream.

The encore was once again intense and dramatic with beautiful lyrics and tight instrumentals playing songs including The Pact (I’ll be your Fever).

Since releasing Becoming A Jackal in 2010, Villagers have been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and the Choice Music Prize, so expectations were high. But there was certainly no disappointment as they played an incredible live set.

By Gina Morris

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