Villagers & Stealing Sheep – Leadmill Sheffield

Stealing Sheep

I don’t often do gig reviews. I have before posted photos taken at gigs, which hopefully give a flavour of the gig. Most of our gigs tend to be around West Yorkshire venturing occasionally as far as Holmfirth to the Picturedrome or the wilds of the Trades Club, Hebden Bridge. However due to circumstances, we travelled south to Sheffield to visit the Leadmill. It is a fine venue not far from the railway station in the mould of the Cockpit In Leeds. The main act was the Irish band, Villagers. They have recently released their second album ‘Awayland’ a fabulous follow up to the 2010 Mercury nominated ‘Becoming A Jackal’. The double pleasure however was that their support were Stealing Sheep, a girl trio from Liverpool.

Their debut album ‘Into The Diamond Sun’ released in 2012, has had considerable airplay on BBC 6 Music. They produce dreamlike heavily harmonic music that has a modern edge. It harks back to early folk rock of the 70’s. The album tracks transfer very well to the live stage. The music has a hypnotic quality that floats you along to the strong rhythm section. The musical experience could be described as reminiscent of being led through a woodland glade by elven folk to dance around a fire in a forest clearing.

Villagers are a five piece band from Ireland. The Dublin born lead singer Conor O’Brien, formed the band in 2008. He has a very distinctive and poetic vocal and lyrical style. The songs are wistful, thought provoking and have a profundity that captivates. Their live performance was equally as captivating. The music is tight and beautifully balanced. They played a mix of tracks from the new album with some from their debut album. Awayland has some gems amongst its ranks such as ‘In A New Found Land’, Nothing Arrived, Judgment Call and The Bell.

Conor O’Brien
In truth there aren’t really any weak songs on there just some stronger than others. The tracks stand up well along with those played from Becoming A Jackal such as Ship of Promises, Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever) and the title track. Their stage presence and in particular O’Brien’s, hold the audience perfectly. He is a diminutive, softly spoken but strong front man with a very talented band supporting him. I get the impression maybe very unjustly, that O’Brien is to Villagers what James Mercer is to The Shins. The albums are those that require several listens to really get under the skin. Once there, you learn to appreciate the wonderfully crafted lyrics and grown up sound that moves the soul. I have seen many acts in the last year but rarely one as engaging. I believe that they may be playing at several festivals this year so I would urge you to go and see them live. Their music and live performance is simple but brilliantly executed. They are working with very fine material though.

I have included two videos of Villagers. The above track Nothing Arrived, is taken from their new album.The video below – Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever), is from their debut album. I hope you enjoy both but better still why don’t you go and see them live.

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