I have listened to a lot of albums this year, but not many have stood out to me like the debut album from Villagers, Becoming A Jackal. It has acted as more than just another album in my life. I’ve woken up to it, and listened to it while falling asleep. I drive around with it, and listen to it when I’m in my contemplative states. It’s been a living, breathing, playlist to my life as of late. It was a no brainier for me to make a trip to the city to check out Conor O’Brien’s intimate gig at Joe’s Pub.
It was my first time ever at Joe’s Pub, and hopefully it won’t be my last. With a floor dedicated entirely to dinner tables, it is more of a restaurant than a venue. This setup was as perfect for any as an act like Villagers. The crowd couldn’t have been more than 100-125 people, and it played as a perfect atmosphere for Conor’s haunting set of tunes.
While Villagers have played many shows as a band, last nights show featured a bare bones acoustic set from Conor. I don’t know if I would have had it any other way. While the studio versions of the songs are great, there is something magical about having only Conor’s voice and guitar (which is named “Lolla”) there to comfort us. It’s intimate, sensual, but mostly emotional.
The acoustics in Joe’s Pub are top notch. They rival the like’s of Bowery Ballroom, who have some of the best sound, period. This certainly did wonders for Conor’s voice, which is astonishing to begin with. He has an amazing range that stretched to incredible lengths when needed. He spoke each lyric with passionate clarity that made his stories jump to life. “Becoming A Jackal” was as powerful as I hoped, closely rivaling the legendary performance that we witnessed on Jools Holland. Each song found a new life at Joe’s Pub last night, due to the acoustic setting that put the songs out there as they were truly meant to be.
Conor entertained the crowd throughout with playful banter, and some light comedy. He even admitted that he was a bit drunk at the show, which was the first time it’s happened in a while according to him. You wouldn’t have known though, because his performances of beauties like “Pieces” and “The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever)” were magnificent. He played every song from the album except for “That Day”, which was made up by two non album tracks: “Cecilia and Her Selfhood” & “On A Sunlit Stage”, both of which you need to search for immediately.
I’ve been to a lot of shows in my life, but I haven’t been to many like the one I saw last night. Intimate shows with a powerful singer-songwriter like Villagers are a completely different monster. You actually feel like a crucial part of the audience. Its like Conor is actually singing to you, for you. Conor is an incredible talent who has a bright future ahead of him. His voice is incredibly deep and versatile live, giving me goosebumps more than once. I can legitimately say he is one of the best new singer song-writers that we have been introduced to this young decade.
Check out the setlist & photos from the show, all after the jump:
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