Kurt Vile & The Violators
Wednesday 18th Nov
O2 Ritz Manchester
Kurt Vile appears to be an artist that has a rather unsettled relationship with his electric guitar. His records consistently chop and change between mellow acoustic based melodies, topped off with a signature finger picking style, and more conventional gritty rock and roll numbers. Six albums down the line and it was time for the man from Philadelphia, accompanied by his backing band The Violators, to entertain the O2 Ritz Manchester with a selection of his works through the years.
Vile chooses his words carefully on stage, only breaking concentration to interact with members of the audience through a high pitched “woop” in-between each song. Shrouded by a magnificent mop of hair and a banjo in hand, the crowd are treated to I’m An Outlaw straight into another feature of his latest B’lieve I’m Going Down LP, Dust Bunnies. The first big reaction is coaxed from the sell-out crowd with the help of the opening lick from Pretty Pimpin which succeeds in orchestrating those in close proximity to the stage to sway in unison.
With solo artists it can often be unclear as to what instruments they contribute on the recording of their songs. Any belief that Vile is not the man behind the distinctive guitar sounds on his records was gratefully dispelled as he dazzled with an unwavering finesse with the guitar in his hand, most notably as he ripped through the guitar lick from the bridge of KV Crimes with undeniable ease. Kurt Vile perfectly embodies the slacker rock vibe with his loose guitar playing and unique vocals that dwell upon singular words. Everything about his performance seems breezy and effortless, a million miles away from the complexity of the sound he and the violators conjured on stage. No better example of this was the rendition of Walking on a Pretty Daze, a song that beautifully rolls along drawing up imagery of those days when everything just seems alright. Not relying on the skill of the Violators, Vile took control of the numerous guitar solos within the track making for a truly spelling spell binding 9 minutes of live music.
The evening became much more of an intimate showing as the backing band departed, leaving Vile accompanied only by his acoustic guitar on stage. A stripped back rendition of Dead Alive followed, free from all of the fuzz and distortion of its recorded counterpart, the performance was one filled with emotion and sincerity as the lyrics “you tell me a good man is hard to find, well are you blind?” echoed around the venue’s structure. In true Kurt Vile style the mood sharply took a bi-polar turn as the Violators retuned to the stage to help see things out with the raucous Hunchback, a fitting end to an evening that proved why Kurt Vile is one of the few remaining shining lights in rock.
Words by Elliot Ryder
Photos courtesy of Liam Hudson