Kurt Vile and The Violators
Mr. Smalls Theater
February 22, 2016
Photo courtesy of Brian Conway
Re-cap by Paige Suvick
The moment Kurt Vile walked on stage, his cool, breezy swagger was apparent. He gave a casual smile to the sold-out crowd and waited a moment, “hey guys, you look good.” He and the Violators then kicked off the show with a rock solid “Dust Bunnies,” off the 6th and newest studio album, b’lieve i’m goin down… The backlit stage created a warm silhouette of the band, complimenting their mellowed out yet hearty rock feel. It wasn’t like you could see Kurt’s face anyways, behind his hair of such length and flow as to suggest an otherworldly element.
It became apparent that Kurt intended on moving the show along when his guitar tech gave him a different axe (and there were at least seven total, including a banjo) immediately after every song. With little time left to banter, the music did all the talking. They got around to the new record’s biggest hit, “Pretty Pimpin’,” a folky, headbob-inducing song with a somewhat humorous, dry vocal delivery: “who’s this stupid clown blocking the bathroom sink? / But he was sporting all my clothes / I gotta say I’m pretty pimpin’,” he sang, playfully altering the melody, and fully engaging in his ambiguously acquired drawl.
Head bobbing turned to swaying when the tone shifted in a few quieter, spaced-out tunes. At one point, Kurt stood alone with his guitar, for “Stand Inside” and “Dead Alive”, in which he showcased his more elaborate and alluring fingerstyle capabilities, suggestive of John Fahey. The lyrics and tone stick out as more serious: “We gonna live in a house together / With me on the couch and my guitar, singing / Oh my god I love you, I love you.”
The Violators reappeared, bringing up the volume and tempo gradually. Suddenly, anything held back up to that point was let loose for “Freak Train.” For the first time he gave himself enough space away the mic to truly rock out. By the end, guitars had gone from twangy to crunchy, drums from steady to unyielding, and vocals from sang to spoken to screamed. You got the feeling they had given all they had left, but they delved back into their softer side once more to peacefully resolve the night, leaving the stage in humble triumph.
However, after a few minutes of cheering from a still anxious crowd, Kurt came back with his acoustic guitar for “Peeping Tomboy,” shifting back to the alluring nature of his previous acoustic songs. For the grand finale, The Violators reappeared yet again for a rousing cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Downbound Train”, which Kurt concluded with an epic solo, giving the audience exactly what they needed to properly end such an epic night.
And to an enthralled crowd, Kurt said his final thank you’s, raised a glass, and exited the stage.
I’m an Outlaw
That’s Life, Tho
Wakin’ on a Pretty Day