Kurt Vile And The Violators - Live At The Forum, London

The modest hero

Those in attendance tonight ain’t half lucky bleeders. Not only do they have respite and shelter from the torturous northerly winds and rain for a few hours but they are also treated to a line-up oozing with indie kisses. Support tonight comes from from Dark Dark Dark and Lower Dens who, like tonight’s main act, played at this weekends All Tomorrow's Parties curated by none other than The National. Furthermore, it’s a rare outing for Kurt Vile and his Violators who are currently hibernating in the studio for Vile’s fifth recording which, we’re told, sounds like “Fleetwood Mac without the cheese.”

First up on the bill this evening are Dark Dark Dark who have crafted themselves quite a live reputation which, to their credit, has brought quite a few of tonight’s sold-out crowd down earlier to check them out. They play a brand of jaunty avant-garde pop which is tonight peppered with accordions, classicial piano and tales of separation able to raise goosebumps of even the hardest of men. Their sharp melodies are topped up by Baltimore’s Lower Dens, who compel the audience with purring bass lines.

We almost forget who we have come to see as our unassuming headliner saunters onto the stage and starts to tune up. Without a word we’re reminded as the band launch into the noise-drenched ‘Hunchback’ which might have come as a surprise to those who only know Vile for the tender acoustics on ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’. A supremely talented guitar player himself, Vile’s merry band of Violators are all masters of their instruments, offering long-hair and guitar licks rather than on stage thrills and wizardry.

Vile’s modest on-stage persona is particularly charming for when the band leave him to his own devices following a raucous rendition of ‘Jesus Fever’ which abruptly finishes with a wild thrash at the guitar. The solo acoustic section of the set really stands out and Vile silences the audience with some superb playing with an American drawl that transports the audience from drizzly North London to the American outback. Better yet is ‘Peeping Tomboy’ which, with added vocal and guitar patterns, makes, for the first time in the evening, those in attendance stand back and appreciate the talent of the meek and mild guitar hero in front of us. Our cockles are thoroughly warmed in time for the Violators to return trading in the folky acoustics for three layers of guitar and distortion drenched psychedelia. 

The set finishes with fan favourite ‘Baby’s Arms’, which for how acoustic it sounds on the album is transformed with the use of an amplifier and fuzz pedals. The trio of guitars come together for an emphatic finish with each member on their knees trialling different sounds on their pedals lost in a cloud of reverb and distortion. The band return for an encore and appease the crowd by switching from the planned ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’ to the garage-rock tinged ‘Freak Train’ which members of the crowd had been calling out for all evening.  Comparisons to Neil Young, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan are easily made and the set suitably comes to a close with a rendition of ‘Knockin' On Heaven’s Door’. A cliché finish perhaps, but the band speed it up and perform it with gusto, partially making up for the omission of ‘Runner Ups’.

 

Words by Andrew Darby

Photos by Rachel Lipsitz

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