Villagers, Sobi: The Epstein, Liverpool

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The Villagers

The Villagers

Some oldies, some newbies, but all of them goodies, Getintothis’ Emma Walsh joins Villagers for a sumptuous night of tunes at The Epstein.

With the sunshine beginning to sink on one of the first summery weekends of the year, there was just enough time for one last jaunt out before the working week brought us back down to earth. And what better way to simmer down than under the calming lullaby tones of Villagers‘ Conor O’Brien in the magnificent surroundings of The Epstein theatre.

Opening proceedings was Sobi, an acoustic artist based in Manchester here on her first Liverpool outing. Charming the audience with both her line of patter and beautiful tracks such as Just Like You and closer CrawlingSobi‘s name will be one we hope to see among the Liverpool listings again soon. If she hadn’t already won our hearts she sealed the deal when she introduced a cover track with the reassurance “Don’t be ashamed to sing along“. The girl made Spice Girls‘ Wannabe sound poetic. Even her “ziga-a-zig-ah”s delighted the crowd.

Few other voices on the modern day airwaves have such a distinctive note as Conor O’Brien. Few other artists have achieved such a singular, striking unmistakeable sound without crossing into “samey samey” territory. Villagers have never risked falling into the “just another indie folk band” box of rejects.

Even just the opening bars of their set have the soothing comfort of a familiar lullaby that can call an audience to attention. Building up waves of sound through strings, with the elegance of the harp and bold power of the double bass, below the ever beguiling lyrical narrative, there is a depth in which you can either lose yourself or marvel in. Coming early in the set My Lighthouse is the first track to really rile the audience’s approval at its introduction, but such is the captivating reverence that O’Brien’s voice commands, the crowd dare not disturb it, letting the song glide into silence before creeping back up into something new.

Nothing Arrived too takes on a life of its own, building into something bigger with the cannonade of horns and bass, but it’s Hot Scary Summer that really stands out the a sterling set, not just as a new and shiny addition to an already impressive catalogue, but as yet another jewel in their illustrious crown.

On Darling Arithmetic the band departed and following Ship of Promises O’Brien too slipped off stage to the usual rally for more. In the gap, stage hand Scott checked over the instruments, tuning up for the encore. O’Brien had previously mentioned that it was in fact Scott’s birthday, but he’d suggested singing Happy Birthday might ruin the mood. Not so, according to the crowd who took the opportunity to serenade the bashful Scott. 

Much amused O’Brien and band returned for their last hurrah, “An oldie, but a goodie”, Becoming a Jackel and the superb Courage closed the show. A rather splendid way to pass a Sunday night.

Photos by Getintothis’ Martin Saleh.

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