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Kurt Vile & The Violators

LIVE REVIEW: Kurt Vile & The Violators, Voxhall, 04.11.2015

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Kurt Vile & The Violators. Photo by Steffen Jørgensen (

Recently described by Pitchfork as ‘the weird quiet kid in the corner’, Kurt Vile is not the type of musician to exhibit boisterous showmanship and overt self-assurance during his live performances. That’s OK, though – because that’s not what you’re going to a Kurt Vile gig for. More likely you’re there to drift along to his flawless blend of lo-fi, psych rock and folk that has shaped his six solo albums and have earned him a solid and respected name.

Vile’s work is underpinned by inimitable guitarmanship– his experiments between electric and acoustic (as well as the banjo) constitute a refined body of work on their own. The problem with Vile’s genius technical ability is that it diminishes any fluidity and pace during his live shows. During the second song in his set in Aarhus, Vile works the crowd with a flawless rendition of his latest single, ‘Pretty Pimpin’’. Yet the audiences’ growing enthusiasm is only to be quelled by a prolonged interval of guitar tuning and amp adjusting. This can be forgiven at first; the fact that Vile switches to a new guitar after each of the first five songs makes you appreciate just how sophisticated his sound is. Yet the constant breaks in the show soon become wearisome. As Vile focuses on how to adjust and perfect his sound, he loses any potential contact with the audience. Exasperated looks between Vile and his band the Violators may signal technical difficulties beyond their control, but Vile has been slated too many times for his inattentiveness to the audience during his live shows for this to be a valid excuse. By mid-set, the gig has failed to pick up any speed and, for a musician as proficient as Kurt Vile, a more cohesive live sound should be delivered faultlessly.

“I’d much rather levitate” sings Vile on his most recently released album, B’lieve I’m Going Down. The problem is that his audience is left behind him, still stuck on the ground.

Kurt Vile & The Violators. Photo by Steffen Jørgensen ( Vile & The Violators. Photo by Steffen Jørgensen (


LIVE REVIEW: Kurt Vile & The Violators, Store Vega, 05.12.2013

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Entering Kurt Vile & The Violators’ show at Vega last night was like attenting a private party of the kind where nobody really bothers to get up and greet you welcome, and where it is up to you, if you feel at home or as a stranger. I felt at home quickly, but perhaps that was due to the fact that my only memory of Kurt Vile from previous shows is of his back and therefore I did not even expect him to face the audience – which he actually did all night only hiding behind his hair.

This band does not attempt to entertain or please anyone. They are are merely just there as if they were back in their own rehearsal space playing their songs regardless of whoever hangs out there and who cares to listen. And while some people find that attitude arrogant or boring or just too stoned out, I personally find that it serves to unveil the actual purpose of a visit by Kurt Vile and his band: The music.

Lou Reed once said: ‘You can’t beat two guitars, bass and drum’. Kurt Vile follows this rule to perfection, only broken by a few occasional rhythmical add-ons from a laptop. In one song a saxophone is taken onto stage, but noone plays a single note on it until the end where it is used solely to add to the white noise of several distorted guitars.

This no-nonsense attitude towards guitar-driven rock makes Kurt Vile & The Violators sound both timeless and at the same time completely present.

Few other bands dare to devote several minutes to just playing two chords over and over again, without adding some cool attitude or an interesting light show, in case anyone in the audience should get bored. Neil Young and Crazy Horse obviously comes to mind, but also less noisy bans such as Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.

In fact, the only boring passage in yesterdays performance was one of the most anticipated songs, Jesus Fever, a song which Kurt Vile played in such an uninspired way, that I feared he would fall asleep. It seemed to me as if the demand for a ‘hit song’ from the audience bored Kurt Vile and instead doing a new interpretation of  the song in a Dylan’ish way, he just chose to get over with it as fast a he could and return to jamming with his band mates.


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