Villagers @ Sound Control Manchester 24/05/11

It’s not even six months since I last caught Villagers at  Leeds Cockpit. Despite having just missed out on the Mercury Prize to The XX only a few weeks or so before the event, Conor O’Brien and co still delivered a breathtaking set.

They now return with Ivor Novello songwriting award to their name, as well as having just completed a very respectable stint supporting Elbow on their recent arena tour. 2011 is certainly proving to be their year. However with no new material in sight, my concern was this outing may offer little more than a rehash of the last show for the benefit of those still playing catchup.

Surprisingly not, as not only was the set substantially reworked – pretty much reversed in order; but admirably a lot of the songs were reimagined. With the backing of a full band tracks such as ‘Pieces’ and ‘Home’ were delivered more uptempo than on record, with a heavier vibe than their usual, more subtle tones.

New songs ‘The Bell’ and ‘Grateful Song’ did add some variety, although their lack of familiarly meant they washed over the majority of the crowd. There was added excitment towards the end of their mammoth hour and half set when rumours that Elbow were at the gig; later confirmed by O’Brien teasing ‘Thank you to Elbow, wherever you are’, and post gig reports of incident the band had with the also present Everything, Everything.

However the biggest shock of the night was in what was not played – with the unexpected ommission of THAT Ivor Norvello winning song ‘The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever)’. Maybe it’s the first hint of artistic pretension creeping in , maybe they ran out of time or maybe they just didnt feel like it. Either way, for as far as this band have already come, there’s still a much bigger future ahead of them.

View the setlist  here

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