“To be frank, I’m fried,” sang Kurt Vile on ‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’. Fitting considering how worn-out he looked at Concorde 2 last time we saw him. Almost two years later SOURCE returns to the scene of the (KV) crime to give Philadelphia’s favourite songwriter another chance.
“We’ve been on a long tour and I’ve just ate a really spicy pizza,” says Lushes frontman James Ardery. Looking around the hall empty venue he’s not the only one pained. The Brooklyn duo come off like a dodgy Fall tribute act and are giving our ears indigestion.
Seeking sensory respite we gaze through the open side door at the volleyball court outside. Watching Lushes is like running a bath for hours that never warms up.
Luckily we aren’t left in the cold for long. Kurt receives a hero’s welcome arriving onstage with The Violators in tow. Wearing a black T-Shirt spelling “What’s up kooks” he wastes no time marching through the countrified stomp of ‘I’m An Outlaw’. A highlight from new album ‘B’lieve I’m Going Down’, it proves he’s just as dexterous plucking a banjo as he is a guitar.
“Don’t know much about history,” he drawls on the defiant ‘Dust Bunnies’. It’s the bitter little brother of ‘Wonderful World’ and sounds gloriously menacing live.
“How you guys feeling?” asks Vile rapidly before flinching away from the mic.
“Did you understand that?” asks a puzzled lady in front of us. He may look shy but he’s letting his tunes do the talking tonight.
‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’ is lusciously melodic. The band patiently draw out its dreamy instrumentation under golden lights. Vile’s eyes peek behind his hair like sunrise flickering through half drawn curtains.
The hazy mood is snapped into focus with ‘KV Crimes’. Violent guitar hooks stab through Vile’s rally of “I think I’m ready to claim what’s mine”. Cheering and screaming, his subjects seem happy to inaugurate him king.
The Albert Hammond, Jr. endorsed ‘Pretty Pimpin’ gets an ecstatic reaction from the crowd and sums up where Kurt Vile is in 2015. Famed producer Rob Schnapf has made subtle tweaks to the formula for radio play without sanding down the edge that makes the music so appealing.
“I love you,” screams a female fan.
“Aw, can you give me some examples why?” he responds with a coy smile.
“The next one is about Jesus Christ,” says Vile before tearing into a propulsive version of ‘Jesus Fever’. One of the poppiest and most infectious songs in his catalogue; the crowd lose it.
Things get even more raucous with ‘Freak Train’. The distorted saxophone solo sounds like a howling banshee and entices a fan to dance uninhibited onstage. She dangles precariously close to the edge before being rescued by a sound engineer.
“I will never ever ever be alone,” sings Vile in a sublime encore of ‘Baby’s Arms’. We’re sure he’s gained more than a few followers tonight.
Concorde 2, Wednesday 11th November 2015
Words by Andy Baker
Photos by Ashley Laurence