KURT VILE & THE VIOLATORS and STEVE GUNN at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, Wednesday, May 28. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
A Kurt Vile show is a lot of mellow goodness but not a ton of engagement. There are few spikes in energy or volume, despite the Philly rocker moving constantly between acoustic and electric guitars, and his three-piece Violators churning out a full sound.
Finally bringing last spring's terrific Wakin On A Pretty Daze album to Toronto, Vile unsurprisingly focused on its tunes throughout the 90-minute set, coasting on stoner grooves and punctuating the sprawling songs with mesmerizing guitar leads, frequent hoots and drawn-out "yeahs."
He only broke loose near the end, during Freak Train from third album Childish Prodigy, which upped the crunchy fuzz, and saw Vile screaming the vocals and his bassist switch to sax. Earned him an encore, naturally.
Fellow Philadelphia musician, Brooklyn-based Steve Gunn was the perfect opener, an even more fluid, hypnotic guitarist than Vile, and with a fingerpicking style all his own. Water Wheel and Lurker from 2013's Time Off were standouts, and word is he's got something new coming out this fall.