LIVE MUSIC: Kurt Vile @ The Black Cat - 2/6/12

Photos: Andre Radloff

Redemption.  That’s why I went to the Black Cat on Monday.  I needed to see Kurt Vile perform in a great venue in front of an appreciative crowd to see just how well the material from his excellent 2011 album, Smoke Ring For My Halo (one of the last, and most painful, cuts from my top-10 list [link]) played in concert and to exorcise the memory of the godawful show he played at the Rock and Roll Hotel last year. Thankfully, Mr. Vile did not disappoint, proving once and for all that the venue, not the man, was to blame for last fall’s debacle.

Just Kurt Vile, a guitar and youFor this show, Mr. Vile left the Violators at home, instead treating the sell out crowd to an intimate solo set that rolled easily between his recent work and his back catalog.  It was a mesmerizing performance that subtly showcased Vile’s lyrical, vocal, and musical abilities without bluster or needless showmanship.  Indeed, though Vile never once stood up (save to enter and exit the stage) and he eschewed accompaniment on all but a few songs, he effortlessly held the normally raucous Black Cat crowd completely in his thrall.

The easy joke of the evening (and believe me, I’m not one to pass up an easy joke) was that Vile’s soft, reverb heavy set would have been best enjoyed along with a heavy cocktail of mind altering substances. However, upon further reflection, I think that what made this virtuosic performance special was that Vile drew the audience into his world and gave us all the sort of collective experience that can often only be found with pharmacological assistance.  I am sure there are members of the audience that will disagree with this premise (having taken Vile’s album title too literally before arriving) but, for one evening at least, the music should have been more than enough to sate anyone’s appetite.