Kurt Vile returned this year with an album that has made pretty much all this year’s round of Top 50 lists and rightly so. Tonight he and his band the Violators showcased some of this new material.
The band opened with the first track of the album 'Walkin on a Pretty Day', and proved again why it has been continually acclaimed as one of the year’s best tracks. Loose and open it filled the room effortlessly. Kurt enunciated the lyrics lazily and pulled a tired half -smile as if he had just thought of something slightly funny. Perhaps he was wondering if the guy in the front row would see the irony in watching Kurt sing the line where he lets his "phone ring off the shelf" later on his iPhone. Before long the effects pedals were down and the band descended into the reverbed up phaser-beam sprawl that makes up the majority of this 9 minute epic. Here, and on several other tracks from the new album played tonight, the layering of the instruments is a triumph on the live stage. Ringing guitar lines effervesce over each other with no centrepiece melody but several vying for attention, so that all ears were left feeling as passed around the band as a pre-show joint.
An increase in rhythmic definition came with the metronome-like 'KV Crimes'. This gave a slightly encumbered feel to the show which was swiftly countered by the light and airy lead parts of 'On Tour'. A show highlight 'Goldtone'- a gradually rising slow burner. Again, great layering of instruments built up to a ‘Wall of Sound’-esque backing for the ‘yeah yeah’ refrain, which admittedly felt flat without the female vocal accompaniment found on the record. Nevertheless, the shimmery guitars and keyboard retained all the warmth of the track.
The show took a dynamic change as the band left Kurt to perform two solo songs: 'Peeping Tomboy' and 'Feel My Pain', the latter getting one of the best crowd reactions of the night. A roar of appreciation went up as Kurt showed his adeptness during the intricately fingerpicked song. The dynamics changed again as Kurt blasted out a rolling, stomping 'Hunchback' on his Fender Jaguar. The pace picked up further still as the sonic whirlwind that is 'Freak Train' followed. Kurt making full use of the vast dance floor of a pedal board as the brassy warmth of the saxophone blared out through the chorus.
A more fleshed out rendition of old favourite Freeway made an appearance in the encore to finish the show. Despite a minimalistic approach to audience interaction during the show Kurt then came down to the barrier to meet couple of people. The show was hugely enjoyable and was a great showcase of some seriously good new material from Kurt Vile and I’m left well Violated.
Words: Joe Norman