When Kurt Vile nonchalantly walked on the Vega stage on Tuesday night, it was the Philadelphia singer-songwriter’s fifth appearance in Denmark this year. But far from wearing out his welcome, Danish music fans can’t seem to get enough of Vile’s intoxicating mix of white noise-infused stoner blues-rock and simple, lyrical acoustic strummers.
Strolling out alone with just his acoustic guitar in hand, Vile started the evening with an understated performance of ‘Blackberry Song’. His backing band The Violators then took to the stage and the noise and adrenaline were turned up for ‘Runner Ups’, ‘Overnight Religion’ and ‘Jesus Fever’, before slowing back down for ‘On Tour’ and ‘Ghost Town’.
The band truly hit their stride with a wild romp through ‘The Hunchback’ in which an otherwise straightforward, no-frills show let loose with flashing lights, and the crowd – along with Vile’s trademark long hair – were whipped into a fury. Oh yes, the hair. Strange that most mentions of Vile seem to include a comment on his long locks. It’s not like he is the first rock-n-roller to sport the look. If anything, Vile looked a bit like the hipster bastard child of Dave Mustaine as he tore through what he jokingly called his “thrash set”.
But this wasn’t about looks, it was about the music. And there the show consistently delivered. Whether on harder-charging tracks like ‘The Hunchback’ and ‘Society is My Friend’ or slower, acoustic cuts like ‘Peeping Tomboy’ and ‘In My Time’, Vile had the packed house at Vega eating out of the palm of his hand as he displayed his talents as both a guitarist and a songwriter.
Where Vile could use some improvement, however, is in his showmanship. The concert was punctuated by one too many awkward breaks in the action while Vile tuned his guitar and made lame jokes about being allergic to cats – and hats – while the crowd remained rapt and perhaps overly polite in that particular Danish way. Rarely has a rock show had so many moments of pure silence.
That said, it’s easy to imagine that if Vile went whole-hog embracing a rock star persona, much of the appeal of his simple, lo-fi approach would be lost. Though he’s been called “one of the more important figures in American music”, seeing Kurt Vile in concert is a bit like watching one of your buddies play in a bar – if your buddy happens to be really, really goddamn good.