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Sunday, 18 August 2013 12:57

Concert review: Kurt Vile and the Violators rock steadily at the Firebird, Saturday, August 17

Concert review: Kurt Vile and the Violators rock steadily at the Firebird, Saturday, August 17 Shawn Brackbill
Written by Mike Herr

The show at the Firebird wasn't a revelation, but Kurt Vile and his dynamic, badass Violators did deliver a solid, little-frills set based on the strength and flow of K.V.'s songs.

Starting with a chilled-out "Jesus Fever," then the slow-burn drama of "Wakin on a Pretty Day," the band primed the crowd for mid-tempo moodiness. A trudging down-tempo version of "KV Crimes" opened up plenty of space for the Vile's great shifting riffs to take on some emotion, but it also slowed my heart rate.

The most engaging stuff of the night happened when the band moved into more complexly arranged material. Songs like "Was All Talk," "Shame Chamber," "Girl Called Alex" and "Freak Train" really test Vile's ability to satisfy people's appetite for the weird kinks and sounds on the records while also ratcheting up the mood and intensity of the songs to make the something living and only available for the moment.

He did this with some characteristic subtle touches: dragged out yelps on the "Shame Chamber" chorus, tossing up or dragging down his melodic phrasing at the ends of lines (a lot like Dylan has always done live). Then there's the trickiness of translating his albums' shape-shifting percussion (or lack of it) into live drums. So, Vile chose a really great rock drummer in Vince Nudo and just let him rip into the expansive driving rhythms of "Was All Talk" and "Freak Train" with never-ending fills and bloom-on-bloom crashes.

When the band really dug into "Freak Train," Jesse Trbovich's sax blasting over the chug and pedal-squall, the song almost transcended the record from whence it came, but instead of pushing the song to its limit and (I wish) way beyond, Vile signaled the end and moved on to the next one. Ending with "Puppet to the Man," which he said was a request, seemed to sum up the whole set for me: mid-tempo, undramatic, round-groove rock 'n' roll.

K.V.'s records are like a blotter for his personality: sonically and lyrically washed out in grooves and laid back and sometimes funny and sometimes delivering bleak truths. Because of the rushed momentum through the songs, most of the emotional impact fell through the cracks. During his solo acoustic interlude, fingering his way through "Peeping Tom," Vile seemed a little impatient, ready to get back to the rock. But you can never tell with that dude.

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