SOLO GATE: Kurt Vile shocks Perth crowds with a spectacular PIAF performance
I first saw Kurt Vile at the Bakery not long after I had turned 18 (when all gigs are like the best). This was just after he had released his fourth LP Smoke Ring For My Halo, an album that I will always remember falling in love to. Kurt was nothing short of angelic on that Bakery stage. It was truly beautiful to witness the entirety of that album in vivre. I thought he was the coolest singer/songwriter at the time, and to a certain extent, I still stand by that assertion. I later saw him at Laneway Festival in Fremantle after he encountered considerable success with Waking on a Pretty Daze. He was a little more raw, and the Laneway crowd were well, you know... Gross.
I expected his gig at the Festival Gardens to be more or less the same as the first time I saw him. That expectation was correct, save for the fact he was solo, sans his beloved Violators. I think this really toyed with punters who were only familiar with Vile's last two albums, (Waking and B'lieve I'm Going Down). This even confused long haul KV fans when they walked into a seated, solo gig. I think it even threw KV off to a certain extent. He appeared nervous and stumbled with his instruments and sound equipment. Luckily, he remained humble about his mistakes and told some endearing anecdotes in between tracks. More importantly, his technical skills remained strong throughout the 90 minute set, maintaining the capacity crowd's attention.
Having seen him perform a few solo tracks at the Bakery gig, I knew Kurt could pull it off. However, Chevron Festival Gardens is a lot bigger and more intimidating than the sweet old Bakery. There is no denying that his nerves did shine through, especially when he tried to add more depth using effect pedals and pre-set tracks. For example, during Pretty Pimpin' where I couldn't help but see him channelling David Byrne Psycho Killer vibes.
So yeah. This entire solo-gate thing that I read about on Facebook today was no problemo, as I prefer his more simplified, acoustic tracks such as Runner Ups and Blackberry Song. That is, after all what I love about Kurt Vile's music, the unashamed and very decent guitar music.
I'm a fairly passionate KV fan, and I'll be honest, some parts of his performance were boring. Having a backing band does provide some depth to song-writing and delivery. I think it is certainly true in Vile's case, that his band usually assists in elevating him from raw, to that raw brilliance. Unfortunately, we were unable to be privy to that. So what if he was nervous AF without his bandmates? So what if it was a cash grab? He tried something different for once, and I admire that in artists. He was willing to go out of his comfort zone. WE ARE ONLY HUMAN.
Notwithstanding the above mentioned confusion, he sure did impress us with all but two guitars, a banjo, a few pedals and an amp. His awkwardness and humility was only an added bonus. This is a true testament to his brilliance, and no band, or costume, or light show, or bell, or whistle can change that.
The true guitar hero, everyone - Kurt Vile.
I lied about the light show, The lights were magnificent and DEFINITELY ADDED PIZZAZZ to the show.