Kurt Vile’s Sonic Assault Energizes The Pageant
After hearing Kurt Vile and his ace backing band, the Violators, rip through a 90-minute-plus headlining set at the Pageant Tuesday evening, I’ve come to an inescapable conclusion. Kurt Vile is one of the more amazing guitar players and banjo pickers I’ve seen recently.
Vile’s opening act, The Sadies, (thesadies.net) whom Vile calls “my favorite band,” remain one of the more underrated bands to come along over the past couple decades.
I now have incredible respect for Vile’s guitar tech, who just may have one of the most challenging jobs in the backstage world. Vile literally changed guitars after every singing song throughout his set, ending each performance by holding the instrument over his head to acknowledge the crowd, while the tech ran out with a new, freshly tuned instrument and helped Vile quickly switch from one electric or acoustic guitar (don’t forget that banjo) to another.
It was all worth it for the fired-up fans who filled the pit and downstairs seating areas at the Pageant. They cheered on Vile and his band from the opening notes of “Dust Bunnies” through the closing encore, “On Tour.”
In addition to opening with “Dust Bunnies” from his latest album, “B’lieve I’m Going Down,” Vile followed with several more songs from that release. He played banjo on “I’m an Outlaw (actually his first instrument, since his dad was a bluegrass fan). He also turned in fine versions of “That’s Life, Tho (Almost Hate To Say)” and “Wild Imagination” on acoustic guitar; with standout versions of “Jesus Fever” from his 2011 release, “Smoke Ring for My Halo,” and “Goldtone” and “A Girl Named Alex” from 2013’s “Wakin On a Pretty Daze” folded in between.
Throughout the set, Vile managed to wring amazing effects out of whatever electric or acoustic guitar he was playing at the moment. “Goldtone” was a prime example, as Vile rolled through an extended solo that seemed to reach a lyrical high point; then kicked into a higher gear.
On “Stand Inside,” Vile took a solo turn, singing along to acoustic guitar and giving the crowd a chance to spotlight his skill as a lyricist. From there, the energy level kicked back up as the set roared to a conclusion with standout versions of “Wakin On a Pretty Daze,” “Puppet to the Man,” “KV Crimes” and an extended jam on “Freak Train,” from one of Vile’s early albums, “Childish Prodigy.”
The Sadies, a Toronto, Canada band led by brothers Dallas and Travis Good on guitar, has been together since the mid-1990s, and released more than a dozen albums on their own and in combination with the likes of Neko Case, Garth Hudson of the Band and John Doe.
It was easy to see why the group is one of Vile’s faves. The band’s eclectic mix of alt-country, rockabilly and touches of surf guitar highlighted a fast-paced, energetic opening set.