Kurt Vile and the Violators kicked off their 2016 world tour on Wednesday night at College Street Music Hall in New Haven, CT. Kurt Vile made his mark with fans in 2013 with Wakin On A Pretty Daze, Vile’s fifth studio album and third full length released by Matador Records. His fan base began to swell and diversify considerably during the years leading up to his latest 2015 release entitled B’lieve I’m Goin Down…. Wednesday night’s crowd was a direct reflection of this recent evolution, particularly with the warmth showed to unorthodox openers Xylouris White who captivated the largely uninitiated.
The duo of George Xylouris and Jim White offered many in attendance something new, which is generally a dangerous proposition. One could always point out Jim White’s role in the 90’s iconic Australian instrumental group Dirty Three to provide a point of reference or some credibility for the more suspect in the room. Or perhaps you could share the almost mythical musical lineage of George Xylouris who hailing from Crete can claim Zeus as a neighbor. Regardless, none of this was necessary as the duo quickly swept the crowd up for a 45 minute set of sonic adventure. When there are only two players on stage they better be really good at their instruments or really entertaining to watch, and in this instance both were true. Xylouris is quite literally a lute, yes lute, virtuoso, while White played drums the way Baryshnikov danced, fluid and in complete control. At times White appeared as if he were conducting from behind his kit, drum sticks pointing toward the rafters and back down again in the blink of an eye. Other times he moved like a whirling dervish in slow motion, arms waving and undulating, but again in perfect timing and in complete control. Xylouris was a bit more blue collar in his performance in terms of undulating body parts but he was like a Steve Vai or Joe Satriani on a traditional Greek guitar only with better taste in music. Xylouris addressed the crowd with his Greek charm and was endearing when he spoke, albeit infrequently. I give credit to Kurt Vile or Matador or to whomever thought Xylouris White would be a good fit for the tour, they were, perfect in fact.
As the venue began to fill up with smoke from the fog machines I noticed the audience also began to fill the space. This time around, unlike Vile’s last stop in CT at Toad’s Place, there was an excitement building among the audience. I was later told by a friend that Kurt Vile himself expressed excitement when he entered the newly renovated concert hall (previously the Palace Theater) having assumed he’d be playing Toad’s again. I can’t say for sure but as Vile took the stage with his co-conspirators there was an energy among them that felt genuine. If you are familiar with his music you’ll know that Kurt Vile isn’t a showman but rather a reclusive personality who speaks loudest through his music, if that isn’t too clichéd. However, there were occasions when he playfully engaged with the audience asking them about “Conn-ek-ti-kut” and of course the requise ribbing of Yale students. Still, the night was about hearing cuts from the new album, and needless to say, that’s exactly what happened. Vile ripped through the first three cuts from B’lieve I’m Goin Down… only in reverse order. The opening twangs from Vile’s Strat signaled the first song of the tour; “Dust Bunnies,” of which none were present in their sharp playing. Perhaps somewhat autobiographical, “I’m an Outlaw” followed and was rewarded with hearty applause and high pitched whistling. Things really got going when he launched into his latest single “Pretty Pimpin”, which sounded excellent. Vile and the Violators went on to play a mixture of songs from the new album as well as several from Wakin On A Pretty Daze and Childish Prodigy. The two encores, “Baby’s Arms” and “ Peeping Tomboy ”, came from 2011’s Smoke Ring For My Halo and really showcased Vile’s abilities as a talented guitarist and lyricist.
There were good vibes from the crowd and Vile alike making for an excellent evening all around.
I’m an Outlaw
That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say)
Wakin on a Pretty Day
Dead Alive (Solo acoustic)