Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile


Kurt Viles’ music for the gentle outlaw is a soothing painkiller for these days of daze and outrage. Some kind of warm beneath your iced bones.

The Ritz is packed and I can’t help smiling as in a happy-go-lucky TV commercial. It’s just great to see that we all gathered here tonight: those casual, cool couples, that true stalwart of rock, the too enthusiastic (or maybe just drunk) fans, these easy-going two friends having a hilarious argument about Jim Morrison and Coronation Street –(nice talk, guys!) the tallest people in the world who join their group of friends right ahead of you just a second before the show starts. Total eclipse of the stage. Nevermind. For the first time, I’m so glad you’re here.

As shy as an inward-looking teenager, Kurt Vile quietly enters the stage, clad in denim, dark, long hair strategically covering his apparently chronic shyness. I would say that he looks like a quirky Ramone crossed with a twisted hippie. The audience seems already enthralled since the very first banjo chords of the smooth ‘I’m An Outlaw’, from his latest album, B’lieve Me I’m Going Down... A modest anthem for a few renegades. That kind of song.

He changes the banjo for a splendid guitar for the next new tune, ‘Dust Bunnies’. This could be the perfect soundtrack for a road trip to nowhere (well, the whole new album). Driving alone through a disturbingly empty road, without any rush nor worries. The vague horizon as the only certainty to hold on to.

“I wanna put out the cigarette and leave it behind/Hold you real close, take you by the hand/We’ll walk away/Walk away”.

I just don’t get why some fellas from the crowd shout out “Uuh! Uuh!” until the American songwriter answers them with similar “Uuuh!” shouts, as if they’d be talking in some secret code. Followed by a promising intro it comes the restlessly sweet ‘Pretty Pimpin’. “Oh, silly me, that’s just me…”

Then he goes acoustic for ‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’, from the previous album ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’. The crowd seems so pleased despite the fact Vile barely interacts with them apart from a couple of “thank you” and some shy declaration of love. I still can’t picture him performing along with Cyndi Lauper, as he has recently announced.

Geez, did he invent the shoegazing thing? Yet, his deep voice filtered through his scruffy hair is the perfect balm for these strange days*.

But let’s go electric once again and commit crime, as Kurt Vile and The Violators persuade us in ‘KV Crimes’. Somewhere between psyche and folk, ‘Wheelhouse’ takes me back to the abovementioned lonely road trip, running through my own thoughts and following nothing but my own signals and rules. Kurt Viles’ songs may not shake you out, but they really help you to keep calm among the chaos.

Vile performs a flawless acoustic solo in ‘Stand Inside’ with which he gets a well-deserved “Oooh!” from the audience. The Violators appear again on stage to join Vile in ‘He’s Allright’, a kind of weird lullaby. “I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care, yeaaaahhh”.

After ‘Jesus Fever’ and ‘Runner Ups’ he covers ‘Downbound Train’ by The Boss, but soon after he takes his own ‘Freak Train’: a dreamy, trippy journey full of invigorating “Uh!” –Ok, now I get it. Special mention to the mind-blowing saxo performance by Jesse Trbovich.

Vile leaves ‘Gold Tone’ and ‘Dead Alive’ for the encore. A member of the crowd passionately shouts “I’m so proud of you!”. By the end of the show, he finally seems to have managed to unleash a held back anger.

He says goodbye as timidly as when he entered the stage. I’d dare to say that we all leave the room with certain peace of mind, enhanced by the cheerful ‘Hallelujah’ by Happy Mondays that happily brings us back home.

(*) Encore’s corner: As soon as I enter The Ritz ballroom a shiver runs my frozen body. It’s around 8pm and the room is almost empty. The stage is lit up with the French flag colours and there is a weird, noiseless atmosphere. I read Eagles of Death Metal’s statement on Facebook while I wait for the support band, Lushes, from New York. They’re Joel Myers and James Ardery. “These are strange days, it’s great that you’re here, that you’re not scared”, says the latter. But I’m scared. Yet, we’re here because we came to rock, and that’s we’ll do. This storm-cloud couple plays music for the tormented that perfectly suits the mood. Take the industrial sound of any rough and dusty city, take Joy Division, take Sonic Youth. By the end of their beautifully intense dark performance, The Ritz is almost full of (mostly young) people and hope. I didn’t expect less, Manchester.

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Amaia Santana

Good karma brought me here to Manchester, my second home, where you can stay healthy (despite the weather) and young forever, as you can breathe live music in every corner of the city. I do believe in the healing power of music (rock is my life vest) and I'd be so glad to share my passion with you rockers of the world!