On Wednesday afternoon, Conor O’Brien warmed up for a two night stint in The Olympia Theatre with a busking/canvassing session outside Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. The impending Marriage Equality Referendum takes place tomorrow and it’s a sign of how important this week is for the Dubliner that just hours before a huge show he was on the streets canvassing for a Yes vote. Equality was to become a theme of the evening.
Fast forward a few hours to the Olympia, where concert goers are seated and Mr Gavin Glass kickstarts the evenings proceedings. When he’s not producing barnstorming albums like The Eskies’ recent debut, writing for the GoldenPlec magazine or presenting on TXFM, you can find folk troubadour Gavin Glass on stage playing some “Éirecana” and that’s exactly where we find him tonight. Performing a selection of songs from his latest studio album ‘Sunday Songs’ and “A medley of our greatest ‘hit'”(yes, singular, seems Gav’s a comedian too) Glass endears himself well to the crowd with some sublime renditions of the likes of First Stone, Sunday Songs and Better Left Alone.
As is tradition when touring a new album, Villagers commence the show with title track Darling Arithmetic, immediately setting the tone for the evening. O’Brien’s vocals are captivating. Every inflection and every Dubliners-esque twang flow together seamlessly. The finger pickingly good Dawning On Me melts hearts before a stripped back rendition of Nothing Arrived. The latter successfully silences and stuns the audience – even the chatty folk on the way back to their seats from the bar.
No One To Blame is lyrically brilliant and O’Brien has the audience giggling as he croons about “the kind of swimming pools, for swimming fools…like me”. Everything I Am Is Yours picks up the tempo before Memoir and My Lighthouse slow things down again. The Soul Serene feels a bit rushed in parts, which is the only disappointing moment of the evening but that’s soon forgotten about.
O’Brien dedicates the next song, Hot Scary Summer, to “everyone who makes the right choice on Friday. I’m not going to tell you what to vote, music and politics don’t mix but whatever you do, make sure you vote with love. Love for equality.” All the while pointing towards a three-lettered badge on his chest. It was a beautiful moment followed by an even more beautiful song. A few tears were shed in The Olympia. Little Bigot carries on in the same vein, albeit in a slightly more direct way. “Love is all, little bigot.”
A stripped back version of The Waves sees the band’s last involvement in the main set as they (bar O’Brien) exit the stage to a standing ovation from sections of the crowd. O’Brien then treats the audience to a triple salvo from Villagers’ debut album. A powerful solo rendition of Ship Of Promises is followed by an audience sing-along for the album’s title track Becoming A Jackal.
The band rejoin O’Brien for Pieces before the set is drawn to a close with Darling Arithmetic’s lead single Courage. O’Brien’s voice remains consistently captivating throughout the show and a more appropriate standing ovation from everyone in attendance suitably celebrates the performance. A lot of concerts finish with two words ‘The End’ but as O’Brien made his exit, he had a pair which were far more fitting. “Vote Yes.”