LIVE REVIEW: Villagers, Holly Macve @ Sage Gateshead (01.02.16) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Holly Macve (read Mac-vee) and her acoustic guitar cut a small shadow, a shadow which belies her enormous voice, lurching from note to note with more than a touch of the Woodstock’s. Her performance lacked delicacy but Macve is young and has talent by the sack full, expect to see the name again.

Macve will learn a lot on her first solo tour, there are few musicians who possess the talent, hard earned craft and self-belief to carry off a show like Villagers’ lounge-baroque masterclass. So Naïve starts with the softest of counts and a solitary acoustic guitar. O’Brien comes and goes for the best part of two minutes before the song begins to build towards a horn line that has everyone left of the stage searching for its source. The part swells out from behind the drum kit; it would be remiss of me not to herald the bands breathtaking musicianship. Aforementioned drummer and horn-fancier Gwion Llewelyn, harp and mellotron (on more than one occasion both at once!) from Mali Llywelyn and Danny Snow on double bass can’t help but make you feel this is no longer ‘just’ O’Brien’s solo vehicle.

Everything I Am Is Yours is the first of many tracks that feels so at home in this arrangement that you can scarcely imagine the original, there’s something about the double bass that lifts the song. Hot And Scary Summer also feels comfortable in the bosom of a lounge four-piece and O’Brien delivers every word with heart wrenching aplomb, it feels like a man lifting a weight off his shoulders to a room full of friends. The addition of deeply personal lyricism to Villagers work has been a welcome one and that continues with Little Bigot.

A three song encore to close the evening featuring an album-gem cover of Glenn Campbell standard Wichita Lineman, debut album track rework That Day and one of my singles of 2015 Courage.

A tender, considered and perfectly executed masterclass in joy, melancholy and feeling. It was a real privilege to see what will probably be a unique polaroid in the career of one of Ireland’s brightest musicians.

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