Villagers @ Black Box, Galway | 13/12/18 | Review

Following the release of their most recent album The Art of Pretending to Swim in September 2018, Villagers have been playing non-stop. Miraculously, there wasn’t a sense of exhaustion from their November 2018 European Tour seeping into their show at the Black Box in Galway. The crowd fuelled their wild dynamics of both acoustic and synth. The band’s latest album includes a taste of electronica and rock amongst maintaining the usual folk-like lyrics and guitar patterns. This show wasn’t just a performance of an experimental album – this set was built off of the reciprocal relationship between audience and band, driving each other to new capacities.

Image result for villagers album the art of pretending to swim

Villagers’ performance of “Again”, the opening song on their new album, mixed synth, techno, bird noises, and gave the impression of elevating into a new dimension. The lyrics, “I feel it ripple and ready its soul again” make us question whether “it” is music, the artist, the audience itself, or a zest of huamnity. Within the one song, the audience was dancing, swaying, or shocked into silence at any different moment in the song.

Another standout performance was that of Darling Arithmetic‘s “Hot, Scary Summer”, leading the audience through pain, awkwardness, and ultimately reassurance. “Courage” was performed in a similarly raw and acoustic style, building in huge dynamics to a dramatic climax in the final chorus.

The strongest performance of a new song was undoubtedly in “Ada”, a homage to Ada Lovelace, fading into an amazing electronic soundscape at the end of the song to mimic the fantasticalness but also confusion that a technologically developing world brings. The Black Box performance was one of both tenderness and techno, lyrics remaining simple yet poignant. The drummer drove the band from folk to rock across the performance of the band’s variety of albums, with his multitalented musicality carrying over to performances on the flugelhorn.

O’Brien himself picked up the horn at the end of the set; the set’s conclusion was, unsurprisingly, {Awayland}’s “Nothing Arrived”. There was a sense of uncertainty amongst the audience as to how this dynamic and vivacious set could possibly be concluded by a well-known and sensitive acoustic song. The song was performed humbly, focusing on the guitar fingerpicking and the tender lyrics. Yet, it built on O’Brien’s raw lyrics through the use of harmonies and the respectful accompaniment of the band, and finally, through an incredible brass performance, raising hope and radiating musicality through the audience.


More from Villagers’ 2018 album, The Art of Pretending to Swim


Frances Wilde
+353 83 043 9326
Business Inquiries: franceswilde@hotmail.co.uk