Sometimes there is this assumption that great music is complex and elaborate, or that it is created by a mixed bag of instrumentalists creating a jumble of joyous sound. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is just that! But sometimes, on occasion, it’s just made by a guy and his guitar. A gentleman like Kurt Vile, then, reminds us all that, in music, ‘basic’ is not a dirty word.
And so Kurt Vile graced the PIAF stage at Chevron Gardens on the 28th of February, so keen were people for the rare opportunity to see the man solo, PIAF added another event to just to satiate them. In taking the stage without the ceremony of an opening act, or the fanfare of a late night time slot, he proceeded to plug in his guitar. This huge luscious head of hair with a person attached then began to play one of my absolute favourites, ‘Feel my Pain’.
Taking hearty swigs of water between songs, he clarified to the crowd that it was actually ‘liquid LSD’. Oh how we laughed, however for a guy whose most popular song muses: “I woke up this morning, didn’t recognise the man in the mirror, then I laughed and I said, ‘Oh silly me, that’s just me,’” you do wonder if this done on purpose. With that, the rolling drum loop of that jaunty number, ‘Pretty Pimpin’, starts to play and the crowd is as animated as a crowd can be while confined to a seat.
He spent the rest of the night alternating between flashes of acoustic guitar and luscious full-bodied electric. At one point in the 90 minute set he even took that southern drawl of his to its logical conclusion and traded in his guitar for a banjo. We strolled through a back catalogue of crowd favourites and saw ditties like ‘Wakin’ on a Pretty Day’ and ‘Life Like This’. His performance couldn’t be called melancholy, but neither was it hugely joyful, it was what it was – the folk styled musings of a longhaired yahoo on the everyday ebbs and flows of life.
The laid-back vibe of the night was complete with Vile’s endearing fumbles, pauses and jovial banter between songs; we were all friends here. Later in the night he explains to everyone, “I can’t drink at the moment because I’m on antibiotics, and I actually wrote a song about it!” This grand revelation providing fresh new insight into the song entitled, ‘I’m on antibiotics’. The song ultimately transformed into the sweet slow melody of ‘My Best Friends’.
With an unembellished introspection, Vile created a feeling of intimacy in the shadow of the city high rises, an impressive feat in itself. More than anything, it felt like we’d all been invited around for a sit and a cheeky pint in the man’s living room, with the warm conversational voice of a storyteller spinning his yarns with his fingers on his guitar strings. More than anything, I look forward to being invited around again.