– Albert Hall, Manchester –



The band are playing so softly, the loudest thing you can hear during the introduction of opening song ‘Song In Seven’ are drummer Gwion Llewelyn’s cymbals. The vocals come in after a few moments and take the crown of the loudest sound source, but everything remains gentle. Not that any of this is unexpected, nobody is coming to see Villagers preparing for their ears to be blown off.

Band leader Conor O’Brien has such a delicate singing voice, it sometimes feels like it could suddenly disintegrate and be gone forever like a blossoming flower. It certainly draws you in as an audience member. At its best, a Villagers live show is like a magic spell being cast over you, you sort of forget where you are, only in the moments that you break out of the trance do you remember that there are hundreds of other people in the room falling for the same trick.

It’s a new album heavy performance, with all the songs on this year’s ‘Fever Dreams’ featuring in the set. 2015’s ‘Darling Arithmetic’ provides an additional three songs, 2013’s ‘{Awayland}’ two and 2018’s ‘The Art Of Pretending To Swim’ one. No matter what song is being played O’Brien seems completely laid back, whether he has a guitar, trumpet, or shaker and glass of red wine in his hands. You can easily imagine him sat in a friend’s living room behaving in exactly the same manner as he does here in front of a crowd.

To close the main portion of the set is ‘Circles In The Firing Line’, the only song marked as “Explicit” from the latest album, featuring its “They’re fucking up my favourite dream” outro chant. It comes complete with a mid-song switch to an electric guitar and some added strobe lighting that briefly creates a completely different atmosphere, but one welcomed with a huge reception as the band walk off stage.

The three song encore includes O’Brien asking the fans to sing-along, “if you can sing” to ‘Courage’, leading to it, and closing song ‘Nothing Arrived’ featuring an Albert Hall choir for the first time in the evening. For the majority of the hour and half of performance the attention of the room was held, the only breakout of murmuring I recall was during the self-confessed “extremely long and extremely quiet” eight minute version of ‘Full Faith In Providence’.

The new album certainly holds up live and although I personally miss hearing songs from the band’s debut album ‘Becoming A Jackal’, the release that brought me into the Villagers world, that’s probably more for nostalgia reasons than anything else. I’ve seen Villagers live on a number of occasions now, and it continues to be a reverie worth entering.

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Adam Smith

Silent Radio Editor-in-chief. Watching excellently crafted live music is one of the great pleasures I get to enjoy. Having too often seen excellent bands fail to garner the attention I believe they deserve, I'm here to spread the good word of the under-appreciated musical performer. I encourage everyone who is reading this to do the same. Get in touch if you'd like to do that here.