Victory lap for O'Brien as his journey has a happy ending
Review: Villagers at Mandela Hall, Belfast
These are emotional times for Conor O'Brien. Fresh from releasing his most personal album yet, dealing with love, loss and homophobia, and having spent the last few months as an avid campaigner for marriage equality, the Dublin songwriter has laid himself bare.
Days after the outpouring of emotion wrought by that referendum result, last night's tour-ending show at the Mandela Hall felt a lot like a victory lap. O'Brien's cut-glass vocals hushed the sold-out, seated crowd from the opening strains of the title track. The mood remained reverential until the frontman - whose sense of humour can be mischievous and self-deprecating - decided to celebrate the referendum result with a blast of Here Comes The Bride.
His voice and acoustic guitar were augmented by brushed drums, double bass, piano, synthesiser, trumpet, and harp, all played by an impressive four-piece band.
New songs like Little Bigot and Everything I Am Is Yours were beefed up from the album versions and older stalwarts like Set The Tigers Free reworked for the new line-up. Aside from the occasional cymbal-crashing change of pace, the overriding feel was one of poise and restraint. But as the evening progressed, singer, band and crowd loosened up, culminating in a stirring, cathartic rendition of The Waves, a tender Ship Of Promises and a standing ovation.