There is a slight feeling that Kurt Vile has seen the error of his ways when he closes tonight’s set by mentioning that he is “so looking forward” to returning to the Whelan’s stage in 24 hours for his second sold-out Dublin show. It follows a perky pre-encore announcement of “right, two or three more and then we are outta here.”
The air of detachment didn’t end with Vile’s unique brand of inter-song “banter” that entailed swapping instruments at lightning speed and hunching over his tuning pedal for a couple of minutes. Philadelphia’s six-string mystic excelled at vanishing between curtains of unruly shoulder-length hair while he noodled away but you’d almost bet he couldn’t wait to get off stage and disappear from the hushed goodwill afforded him.
What a shame for fans of last year’s Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze that no percussion or ambiance would tonight accompany an artist for whom the studio has been a good friend over a five-album solo career since leaving the War on Drugs in 2008. Nope, tonight is about the 34-year-old getting intimate with nothing more than a couple of acoustic guitars, some pedals and a casual bedsit stage get-up.
‘Girl Called Alex’ has a gothic feel without its usual steady beat, and ‘Too Hard’ drips with jaded sarcasm (“I will promise not to smoke too much”) but tonight makes most of an impression when Vile mutes his a-melodic Dylan sneer and takes flight on the fretboard, his fingers dancing hypnotically as he goes seeking the hidden corners of his own compositions. A groovy night, then, for guitaristas in the audience, but disappointing to have so much concealed from view on a much-touted evening.