Gig Review by Sara Reynolds / Gig Photography by Wayne Fox

Villagers

First up is Billie Marten, a female songstress with more than a hint of Eva Cassidy and Laura Marling about her soaring and pretty vocal. Still only nineteen she began her career at the tender age of twelve – with her first studio song release ‘Ribbon’ at just fifteen years of age. Marten’s first studio album: ‘Writing of Blues and Yellows’, at just seventeen. This is a really gorgeous short support set by Billie, and it’s hard to believe she is so young. In the music you can hear such influences on occasion of folk greats: such as Scott Matthews and Nick Drake. I will be interested to hear what Billie produces in the future, so I’d say, definitely watch this space.

Billie Marten

Billie Marten

I’d been missing the Villagers for years – always being in the wrong place at the wrong time – another town, or another part of another festival. We made it tonight though, to the modest and cosy interior of Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms.

I’ve listened to Conor O’Brien’s soulful and humanistic lyrics closely for the last eight years, ever since their debut album ‘Becoming a Jackal’. I have to say I had formed a certain idea of what the man would be like performing in person. Tonight his persona on stage is much more a confident front man than I’d expected — dressed in white blazer with closely shorn hair, he darts and dives around the stage, with a sense of strong self possession I just wasn’t expecting. I ask myself: but why? I think really it’s because O’Briens lyrics and melodies are so full of emotion: around difficult subjects such as dysfunctional relationships, heartbreak and loss. I think I’d subconsciously expected to see a half broken man on stage — but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Villagers

Villagers

From the off, O’Brien says how happy he is to be playing in the same place as Paul McCartney and Wings… and there’s certainly something of McCartney’s swagger about this front man’s performance. Particularly through the first three numbers of ‘Sweet Saviour,’ ‘Again,’ and ‘Fool’.

O’Brien’s crystal clear voice is beautifully complimented by the bands female keyboard player and harpist Mali Llywelyn. Their voices seem to fuse so perfectly, that the sound is like one enhanced sound rather than two. It’s also great to see the whole band too, as so much focus goes to Conor O’Brien in interviews and in videos online. The line up also consists of Gwion Llyr Llewelyn on drums, Danny Snow on Bass and Cormac Curran on additional keys. Several of the talented band members also play several other instruments during the set, and it’s a delight to hear some trumpets in there too — it’s an instrument that doesn’t get enough (excuse the pun) ‘air time’ in contemporary music — let alone in Indie Folk genres such as this.

Villagers

Villagers

O’Brien’s vocal, his range and dynamism is a beautiful thing to behold, and you find yourself when watching Villagers live, lost in the emotion of it all. O’Brien when describing the songwriting process says that it’s the emotion that comes first before anything else. He described in a recent interview, how music for him is like trying to attach yourself to subliminal feelings of the everyday, and that can be quite a tricky feat. Words for him, he says, do not do full justice to the emotions, but from our perspective he seems to do justice to them all the same. It is in the lyric yes, but it’s also in the emotion of his vocal that he clearly transmits those finer nuances. Not everyone is capable of this. Emotion seems to be the primary cause for O’Brien – and it is certainly the overwhelming and extraordinary effect.

O’Brien has something in common with Paul McCartney too, having also won an Ivor Novello Award for Villagers 2016 Album ‘Darling Arithmetic’. Other accolades including two Mercury Nominations, for both their debut album ‘Becoming a Jackal,’ and ‘Awayland’. The current tour is to accompany the new album release of ‘The Art of Pretending to Swim’. Having already listened to it a few times over, I have to say, it certainly gives the others a good run for their money.

Villagers

Villagers

Villagers end on an encore, including the heart wrenching ‘Hot Scary summer’ it’s actually about the end of a same sex relationship, though, through the songwriting process O’Brien seems to transmute the meaning to an even wider audience ‘We got good at pretending, and then pretending got us good’ he sings… and, it got me good too.

Tonight was definitely worth the wait, but I hope it’s not too long till the next time.

Villagers

See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

One Response to “Villagers + Billie Marten at Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK – 17th October 2018”

  1. Villagers Rescue Rooms Nottingham UK 17 Oct 18 | Wayne Fox Photography Says:

    […] in concert, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK – 17 October 2018. | Artist | Promoter | Venue | Publication | Event photos […]

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