Villagers, Billie Marten: Arts Club, Liverpool



Villagers bring a sing along to Arts Club as Getintothis’ Howard Doupé dons his winter coat and heads out for the show.

On what is the first day of cold hitting Liverpool of this chilly Eastern European weather front- it’s a miserable night for a midweek gig. With any sold out show, you’ve got to make the effort and so a wander down Seel Street is a given, despite staying in being the favourable option.
Wandering into the Arts Club  loft there’s little sign of the body count, shame as tonight’s support Billie Marten starts bang on 7:20. Backed by a single drummer this singer/guitarist is the perfect companion to the Autumn drizzle.
We’re sure the bar could do with some proppers but the back room has totally been vacated. Even the steady flow up the stairs doesn’t stray from the front room. Oh, did we mention that she released her first EP aged 12 and has a BBC ‘Sound of 2016’ nomination to her name.
The tunes are ethereal. Shuffling grooves dance around soft, gentle vocals reminiscent of gentler moments from Daughter. This is music to dream to, make love to, formulate and wrestle ideas to. We feel our eyes fighting to close, a sheer determination to drift. Marten (Isabella Sophie Tweddle) strikes as an enchanting front woman. Whispering tones keeping the Mazzy Star mantle aloft whilst drawing you into her worldly ideals. Marten even conveys her desire to make sure her audience are comfortable, ‘anything I can do? I’ve brought gingerbread at the merch table. It’s vegan if anyone gives a shit.’ Ahh, good call just keep on playing that’ll do nicely.
Slightly earlier than we’re used to Conor O’Brien leads his band of merry men and woman into a determined performance. An attentive crowd hang on every finger-picked note, hugely fleshed out with loops, keys and driving yet inventive drums. Gone are the early subtle tunes replaced with a live sound that really brings the latest offering The Art of Pretending to Swim to life.
O’Brien presents a stylish figure looking rather dapper with slick hair and rather fetching jacket- a Stephen Jones protégé no doubt? Pretty sure it’s grey although under these lights it’s looking rather minty green. The fashionista is only barely out shined by a trumpet playing drummer- now there’s something new! Applause indeed, led by O’Brien himself.
It’s been a busy ol’ time for Villagers on the release front. Churning out five albums in only eight years and judging from the latest collection- which gets a near compete outing tonight- the qualities continue to grow.
It really translates well this live setup. The songs have traction and offer new meanings to the familiar album tracks. With samples and synths littering the set- sounds buzz in and out, sped up and slowed down. Long Time Waiting was a ferocious beast.
Onto the singalong moments of the night as old pleasers get an outing. There’s no surprise that Becoming a Jackal is very much welcomed, along with Ada – a tribute to the first computer programmer.
As the encore fades out with a delicately moving version of Nothing Arrived it’s fair to say Villagers played a blinder. Great set, thanks for coming back. Somehow we don’t think O’Brien will be dashing back for the ferry this evening.
Images by Getintothis’ Warren Millar




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