KURT VILE, Electric Ballroom – Evening Standard, 13 Nov 2015

Kurt Vile may look as though he fell out of bed and accidentally sold lots of records, but beneath the spaniel hair and slacker drawl is a sharp songwriting mind and possibly a sensible business plan. The Philadelphian has been doing better and better, recently finding that his sixth solo album and its wayward apostrophes, B’lieve I’m Goin Down[CORRECT], is his first to crack the UK top 40. Making the end of year critics’ lists since his breakthrough, Smoke Ring for My Halo, in 2011, cult adoration is now steadily increasing the size of his venues.

Fans here found him arriving on stage to the top volume, pounding indie dance of Wrote For Luck by the Happy Mondays – a stark contrast to his relaxed fare. The opening song, On Tour, drifted along beautifully, with Vile not so much singing as making his speaking voice go higher and lower.

He switched between acoustic and electric guitar, plus a banjo and computerised drums on new song I’m an Outlaw. He lost the back half of the room during a central solo segment, but when his three-piece band The Violators returned and picked up the pace on Jesus Fever, with the breezy feel of a Californian road trip, the evening was won.

There was even room for a skronking sax solo during the uncharacteristically fast, relentless Freak Train. Making music to close your eyes to at home, he found a way to be perfectly watchable in concert.


March 10, Roundhouse, NW1 (0870 389 1846, roundhouse.org.uk)