Concert Review: Kurt Vile at Revolution Live

I still remember the first time I heard Kurt Vile’s “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” the meandering,  tripped-out folk opus that served as the lead single to 2013’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze. The beauty of the song, as with most of Vile’s work, is that it can reflect whatever influence a listener is interested in hearing, from Pavement to Neil Young and beyond. Since the day I first heard that song, listening to Kurt Vile has felt like catching up with an old friend, and Wednesday night’s show was no different.

Fresh off of last year’s collaborative album with fellow indie darling Courtney Barnett, the former member of the War on Drugs stopped in South Florida promoting last year’s solo outing Bottle It In. Though I’ve listened to his music for years, It wasn’t until I walked in to Fort Lauderdale’s Revolution Live that I realized the scope of Vile’s renown—the venue was packed to the gills on a Wednesday night.

For support, Vile brought along some old pros in canadian rockers the Sadies, who seemed to draw a healthy contingent of their own fans for a roughly 60-minute opening set. The group’s savory blend of rock and alt-country was a pleasant surprise, as I’d never even heard of them until I arrived. The cherry on top of the opening set was its closing song, “It’s Easy (Like Walking)” which featured Vile, giving fans a brief taste of what was to come.

When Vile and his backing band, the Violators (perhaps the greatest band-name pun of our time), took the stage, they looked just like the unassuming quasi-slackers I had pictured.

Throughout the show, Vile and drummer Kyle Spence were the only band members onstage who played the same instruments on every track. Multi-instrumentalists Jesse Trbovich and Rob Laasko swapped bass, guitar and keyboards throughout the set, maintaining an interesting state of flux.

Sonically, the show was exactly what I hoped it would be. The rhythm section was tight, the guitars were lush, and Vile’s distinctive, almost Dylanesque voice shone through the PA like it does on his records. Vile tweaked and stomped on his massive pedalboard all night, constantly evolving the tone and effects of his acoustic and electric guitars as the show progressed.

What surprised me most about Vile’s performance was the tenderness of his lone solo acoustic number. His stripped-down performance of b’lieve i’m goin down… track “Stand Inside” silenced the entire crowd and drew perhaps the biggest applause of the night upon its completion.

Following an inspired rendition of the aforementioned “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” the set took a strange left turn. After a few bars of what seemed to be the beginning of chunky rocker “KV Crimes,” Vile abruptly shut the track down and told his band it was time to move on. Despite this, and the lack of a track from the more upbeat and experimental corners of his catalogue, the set flowed well all night and checked almost every box a fan could hope for.

Though I found closer “Baby’s Arms” a bit anticlimactic directly following Vile’s biggest hit, “Pretty Pimpin,” it didn’t detract from what was, front-to-back, a solid show. Vile has applied his workmanlike approach to making records and touring for well over a decade, so it would be strange to expect a Wednesday night in the middle of a tour to be any different. He forgoes flashy moments, set pieces and stage banter in favor of simply playing his songs, and playing them well. What more could you want?

SET LIST:

  • Loading Zones
  • Jesus Fever
  • Bassackwards
  • I’m an Outlaw
  • Check Baby
  • Girl Called Alex
  • Cold Was the Wind
  • Stand Inside (solo acoustic)
  • Wheelhouse
  • Wakin on a Pretty Day
  • KV Crimes (partial / aborted)
  • Skinny Mini
  • Wild Imagination

ENCORE:

  • Pretty Pimpin
  • Baby’s Arms