Villagers live @ the Cork Opera House 23rd May 2015

The Cork Opera House is possibly my favourite venue to watch a gig Leeside but I must admit that tonight after years of attending this wonderful venue is the first night I have ever been to an all seated gig. Villagers led by one of Ireland’s finest singer/songwriters Conor O’Brien are tonight’s main attraction and the reason we are seated in what is a near full house.

The stage lights come up and Villagers arrive on the stage and are greeted by rapturous applause. Conor has his hands held high and has his “Vote Yes ” badge proudly fastened to his shirt. Conor was one of the more prominent supporters of the yes vote in the previous day’s referendum and it is clear to everybody that the win means a massive amount to him. This is confirmed when he says to the audience “Cork I love you and for the first night tonight I feel you really love me too.”

The show starts with ‘Set the Tigers free’ from their debut record ‘Becoming A Jackal’ but the band line-up isn’t as it was on that debut tour. This new line-up is mellower and now includes a harp and a double bass.

Just before the 3rd song of the night ‘Nothing arrived’ the lead single from the 2012 Irish album of the year ‘Awayland’ Conor says “this is a song about how I used to feel”. A sentiment later echoed on ‘Hot and Scary Summer’ where he makes a reference to the “Old Ireland”.

‘Dawning on me’ is the first song from the current offering ‘Darling Arithmetic’ the album where Conor has spoken about writing for the first time from a far more personal perspective. Also on the set list from this record were ‘Soul Serene’ which was accompanied by a magnificent starlit backdrop and the excellent current single ‘Everything I Am Is Yours’.

Some older songs get reworked tonight too; ‘Memoir’ is one of the few that gets an up-tempo makeover whereas older up-tempo songs like ‘That Day’ receive a far mellower treatment. The excellent ‘Waves’ also from 2012’s ‘Awayland’ finishes with a thumping, drum heavy outro and this gets a standing ovation.

The rest of the band take a deserved break while Conor performs solo versions of both ‘becoming a jackal’ and ‘ship of promises’ before they re-join him for a two song encore which consisted of ‘Pieces’ and the final song of the night ‘Courage’ a song which seems to encapsulate the mood of the night perfectly.


Words by Anthony Kelly