Villagers, Cashier No.9
I'm all for early Christmas presents and we got a good one at the Limelight - the Secret Santa surprise of finding Cashier No.9 set up as the support for Villagers..
I've seldom been disappointed by local bands in support slots and Cashier are top of the tree. The Limelight is almost half full when Danny Todd and the band take the stage. He's wearing a fleecy denim overcoat, a style that suits the Laurel Canyon 60s vibe echoing behind some of the songs.
The band kick off in style with the sumptuous 'Goldstar', layers of sound letting a great song soar. The set includes 'Lost At Sea', 'Back In The Day' and 'I Kid You Not' and 'Good Human', all coming across well and warming a crowd who seem to be discovering Cashier No. 9 rather than being connoisseurs. 'The Lighthouse Will Guide You Home' is the stand-out track with the crowd now well on board, before the set closes with 'Goodbye Friend' building to a suitably show-stopping crescendo. 'When Jackie Shone' got squeezed off the set list, and it would have made a great set perfect to have heard that clattering along at some stage.
From the moment that Villagers' Conor O'Brien opened with a solo '27 Strangers', a full and buzzing venue was gob-smacked to silence within a few bars. The band join him for the second song and for most of the rest of the set. The songs are reflective and reward repeated hearings, and his voice is stunning. There's barely any chattering, ever; we're mesmerised by the voice and passion from the stage.
The band are gifted and combine to produce a rich soundscape for the songs, less string-drenched than on the recordings and with all the more power for being live. Conor takes to the piano for a beautiful 'I Saw the Dead' before the crowd gets clappy with 'That Day', and 'Ship of Promises' leaves everyone asking for more.
O'Brien doesn't disappoint, starting an encore solo again with a 'In A New Found Land You Are Free', a new song which engages on first listen. 'To Be Counted Among Men' and 'Pieces' end a great show. There have been several new songs and the good news is that the next album promises much.
This was a special show, faultless, moving and memorable. From the start we had a sense of being in the presence of something unique, and nothing disappointed. On a raw and icy night in Belfast it would have been worth trekking in from the Pole by husky for this.