Review: Kurt Vile

Tuesday night saw Philadelphia folkster Kurt Vile take to the stage for a solo set at stunning Adelaide Festival popup venue, The Riverbank Palais.

Switching between two guitars, a banjo and harmonica, the hour-and-half-long performance was the true definition of stripped-back. Vile’s setlist was largely comprised of older tracks from Wakin On A Pretty Daze and b’lieve i’m goin down... and while he made a point of playing through crowd favourites such as Pretty Pimpin, the songs that shone were ballads including the heartfelt Stand Inside and Wheelhouse, drawn out by bluesy jams over a loop pedal.

The level of intimacy in the small venue was palpable, made even more breathtaking by the view of the glimmering city skyline reflecting on the River Torrens (believe it or not, it can sparkle) behind Vile. The performer said little, but made a point of proclaiming “love ya!” to the audience twice in his iconic Philly drawl. The set itself was far from seamless and had a couple of false starts and timing issues (perhaps due to the foldback), although this did not detract from Vile’s performance in any sense — in the laidback context of the gig, it added an unexpected touch of rawness and charm.

Languidly peeking out at the crowd from beneath his mop of hair over the soft chatter of the crowd, there was nothing pretentious about the musician as the sound of his guitar filled the venue. Vile’s demeanour was cool, making the evening feel akin to watching a friend play through some songs on a guitar in their bedroom.

The evening was a remarkable insight into the vulnerable aspect of Vile’s music, proving that sometimes simplicity is key in conveying the most touching and genuine of experiences.

Kurt Vile performed at The Riverbank Palais as a part of the Adelaide Festival on March 14. His second show will take place in the same venue on March 16 from 8pm, with tickets available via Bass.

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