Villagers returned to Brighton with their sixth studio album, Fever Dreams, taking to the stage of Chalk with gleeful looks across their faces. Keeping to a heavy focus on the new album, three quarters of it was played through with a generous nine of its twelve tracks served up through the evening.
After starting with Song in Seven, Frontman Conor O’Brien swapped out his guitar for a trumpet to follow with Fever Dreams. Demonstrating an extraordinary ability to hold long notes both vocally and trumpetarily, O’Brien left little doubt that his lung capacity is amongst the highest seen at Chalk in recent years. Soaring trumpet riffs were delivered with gusto, complemented by captivating stage lighting to give a memorable visual to much of the evening.
Drummer Brendan Doherty kept pace from reposed beats in Momentarily through to an altogether vigorous show in Restless Endeavour. Bassist Danny Snow filled the band’s repertoire with rich grooves and an impeccable delivery, switching between an electric bass and an acoustic double bass. Keyboardist Kevin Corcoran and synths player Brendan Jenkinson completed the sound with backing vocals and a talent that feels especially effective in a live environment.
Despite leading the charge with tracks from the new album, the boys from Dublin had to occasionally sheath their polished new musical offering, in order to break open the trophy cabinet and treat the crowd to some old favourites from Darling Arithmetic and The Art of Pretending to Swim. As O’Brien announced they were about to play Trick of the Light, the crowd gave a collective ‘ahh’ of eager anticipation blended with reassuring familiarity.
The band gave a three track encore, including crowd favourite Courage which yielded a powerful show of appreciation in return, and My Lighthouse and Nothing arrived from the Awayland album.
Creating an immersive experience of poetic lyricism and refined instrumentalism, Villagers show themselves to welcome further experimentation beyond the stylings of their previous albums, striking a finessed balance between their formative sounds and newly explored ground.
Villagers @ Chalk, Brighton
20th October 2021
Words by Jon Mulhern
Photos by Gili Dailes