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Villagers: disappointing solo show in Paris

Apr 18

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Sunday, April 18, 2010  RssIcon

Conor O'Brien popped over to Paris last week, playing a solo set as support to Wild Beasts at the Maroquinerie.

Conor O'Brien/Villagers live at the Maroquinerie in Paris, April 2010

(As it happens, it was three years ago this week that his former band, The Immediate, played one of their last concerts at the same Paris venue.)

A packed house saw and heard the Villagers man (right) run through tracks from his forthcoming album, 'Becoming A Jackal'. O'Brien was armed with a three-quarter sized acoustic guitar that had the soundhole taped over, giving a dull yet warm effect.

However, the stripped-down show shone an unflattering light on O'Brien's material. With no backing or arrangements, his songs sound like typical Irish male singer-songer fare - hook-free tunes and laboured lyrics. In particular, O'Brien's words stood out for unforgiving attention. He seems too fond of the rhyming dictionary - for example, there's a "shackles/jackals" groaner and one of his female characters is called Laurie only because the next line's rhyme is "life story".

Elsewhere it's all tired emotional shorthand like 'truth' and 'love' and 'light', delivered by O'Brien with grimaces, closed eyes and a Hansard-esque quiet-to-loud delivery. There's no room for an emotional response from the listener - O'Brien's facial contortions and facile lyrics tell us what we should be feeling.

Villagers are being hailed by some as the next big Irish thing. However, on the evidence of this acoustic set and the full-band recordings O'Brien is more like Whelan's lock-in version 2.0.

Earlier in the week, O'Brien was in London to appear on 'Later...' with Jools Holland. From that show, here's Villagers with 'Becoming A Jackal':

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3 comment(s) so far...


Re: Villagers: disappointing solo show in Paris

Aidan, I saw Villagers the following night in Brussels. I was not so harsh in judgement. He has a great voice, preforms with conviction and has the makings of something.

Yes, I agree he veers off a bit too often - and in terms of grimaces and visible emoting. And some tunes & lyrics were a bit lame. All the same, there were about 2 solid, well-crafted songs in there (could not tell you the titles).

All in all, I was impressed and will watch with interest how things evolve for him in the coming years.

By Eoghan on   Monday, April 19, 2010

Re: Villagers: disappointing solo show in Paris

Eoghan, I'd say 'about 2 solid, well-crafted songs' is a fairly poor return for a full set. And even your impression of him is for what he could be ("has the makings of something", "how things evolve for him") rather than what he is now. I liked his voice and (and I said above) his guitar-playing, but wasn't impressed by his material and delivery.

If he comes back next year with a full set of well-crafted songs, with less of the grimaces or emoting and without any lame tunes/lyrics, then I'll be impressed.

By aidan on   Monday, April 19, 2010

Re: Villagers: disappointing solo show in Paris

"About 2 solid, well-crafted songs' is a fairly poor return for a full set"?

Fully agreed! But he caught and sustained the audience's attention, at least in Brussels (his second outing on the tour, Paris being the first if I am not mistaken). There was none of that chattering-over-warblings going on.

And when the tunes were good it was compelling stuff. Yip, 2 out of 8 or whatever songs is not a great hit rate but I think he has potential. The grimaces and emoting was annoying but not enough for me to write him off just yet.

[Aside: Vocally he reminded me of the fella in Mumford and Sons.]

By Eoghan on   Monday, April 19, 2010

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Aidan Curran, based in Paris, has been writing for CLUAS since 2004. More info about Aidan...

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