Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Villagers shine on the opening night of their tour

There are new chapters beginning every week in this story. A muggy Wednesday evening in Kilkenny, and Villagers are commencing a tour that will take them all the way up to the summer festivals. Debut album Becoming a Jackal is …

Fri, May 21, 2010, 09:55

   

There are new chapters beginning every week in this story. A muggy Wednesday evening in Kilkenny, and Villagers are commencing a tour that will take them all the way up to the summer festivals.

Debut album Becoming a Jackal is out (it’s been the best-selling album in Ireland this week, in fact), the reviews are glowing and expectations are growing. This is when Conor J O’Brien turns into Buzz Lightyear: to infinity and beyond.

To all intents and purposes, O’Brien is Villagers. He’s the one who wrote the songs, cast the spells and marshals the magic. He does the talking in interviews, and it was his spine-tingling solo performance on Later With Jools Holland that has brought many people out to the Set Theatre on a school night.

But there’s more than just O’Brien on the stage tonight. It’s time for the band to resume their positions and remind folks of another side to Villagers. They’re here to colour in the lines in the songs and amplify the subtleties without losing any of the essence or charm.

They pull this trick off in the jagged atmospherics of Tommy McLaughlin’s guitar, which add suspense to The Meaning of the Ritual , for instance, or in the beautiful layers that surround and embellish Home and Pieces . It’s a visceral, sublime experience.

But the limelight remains fixed on the wide-eyed O’Brien and those magnificent songs of his. He may blink a little with all that attention – he talks afterwards about a bad bout of first-night nerves – but there’s no mistaking a steely determination. Oh yes, this is his time to shine.