live review – Kurt Vile at Hebbel am Ufer 2

Kurt Vile in Concert

After a slight delay and a passable warm-up act in the form of Pall Jankins from The Black Heart Procession, Kurt Vile hit the stage. He comes on stage not with the demeanor of the critical darling that he is but rather with the understated charm of a dedicated craftsman. He has no need for any bells and whistles because his music speaks for itself. Vile has been hoping to make it in the music world since his father first bought him a banjo on his 13th birthday, working at dead-end jobs and biding his time in the meantime. He got his first break playing with The War on Drugs, but it was only when he started his solo career in 2009 that he could truly express his distinctive point of view. Vile is on tour promoting his 2013 album Waking on a Pretty Daze without his backing band the Violaters.
Vile’s music centers on his world-weary voice and his excellent guitar playing: he is probably one of the more gifted guitarists of his generation. He uses familiar singer-songwriter elements such as soulful lyrics and skillfully arranged melodies harkening back to such greats as Bob Dylan and Neil Young while still managing to make it into his own singular brand. This is a man who clearly has a deep knowledge of music and doesn’t seem to have a phony bone in his body. Throughout the show quite a few audience members decided to lie down, close their eyes, and let Kurt Vile’s soothing, intricate music sink in. His music manages to put you in a state of reverie while still being immersive.
Vile’s folk rocky kind of music is lo-fi to be sure and the show could have used more dynamism but it was also chock-full of attitude: he wears his inner restlessness and passion on his sleeve. Hebbel am Ufer 2 is not a big venue and the intimate setting is just the right fit for the retro stylings of an immensely talented man who only needs the bare essentials in order to make a show to remember.

Review by Elinor Lewy

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