Kurt Vile and the Violators - The Arches, Glasgow, Sun 15 Dec 2013
An indie rock performance that struggles to find its swagger
Appearing briefly from behind the veil of tousled hair which covers his face, a reluctant Kurt Vile musters an introduction of sorts; ‘Uh, you guys… uh… look hot’. Inevitably it draws an appreciative cheer from the expectant crowd but this half-hearted opening gambit sets the tone for an evening where a surprising lack of stage presence from the band leader is a definite theme.
It's to be expected in a way, as that kind of lackadaisical attitude is a major charm of this year's acclaimed Wakin On A Pretty Daze album, but in the live environment some of the record's pretty ruminations are dampened to tepid meanderings. Despite the undeniable quality of the songs themselves, and several do hit the spot, some of the seven-minute guitar meditations sound tedious rather than transcendent and, given that the set sticks largely to material from ... Daze, ignoring the more electronic experiments of the band's latest EP, things end up a little too one dimensional.
For large parts of the gig Vile himself is upstaged by his impressive backing band The Violators, as his low croon barely registers on most songs, sometimes due to volume and at others interest. When the backing disappears for Vile to tackle two solo acoustic tracks the atmosphere in the room goes numb as he warbles unintelligibly over his otherwise enjoyably nimble fretwork and, lacking any real intensity or presence, loses large sections of the crowd.
Thankfully the band re-emerge to batter out two of their loudest tracks of the night, by which point they've really hit their collective stride; deafening drums and wonderfully melodic lead guitar lines coalesce perfectly against a backdrop of head-banging locks and flashing lights to provide a suitably rock & roll climax to a show which at times struggled to find its swagger.