Virtuosity is not limited to classical music. It’s difficult to explain what a virtuoso performance actually is. It’s something one has to experience firsthand. On February 2, 2017 at the North Beach Bandshell in Miami Beach, those in attendance know what I mean. That’s where Kurt Vile and the Violators delivered a genre-transcending performance of electric and eclectic folk-alternative-independent rock ‘n roll.
The mostly hipster crowd, in their too-small t-shirts and bad shoes shaked and shimmied a bit, I swear. Getting a body part to move from that group is the equivalent of getting thousands of teeny bopper girls to shriek their delights out at a Beatles concert circa 1965: It means something.
Mr. Vile, the curly long-haired Philadelphian with a semi-blue collar blues aesthetic and a frequent smile possesses a singular dynamism when his voice is combined with his exceptionally graceful guitar playing. The night was lovely in a way only South Florida winter nights can be. The stars gleamed and the outdoor venue positively buzzed with warmly expectant musicality. Kurt Vile and his band played gorgeously, sumptuously, and frenetically in support of 2015’s B’lieve I’m Going Down, a singular achievement in independent music.
The night progressed with the band playing an array of scintillating songs from Smoke Ring for My Halo and Childish Prodigy as well. In particular, Freak Train was a mesmerizing display of youthful angst, disgust and perseverance with its ratchety guitars and drab keyboard line. The 7-minutes plus tune kept the audience rapt, even the hipster girlfriends with their itchy smartphone fingers. In today’s mini-me times, that’s a rare feat.
Kurt Vile is one of those young rockers who is one part Neil Young (The Crazy Horse Version), one part Bill Callahan (look him up) and two parts Milky Way stellar probe.
He is an American Treasure and each of his albums improves on the last. His work is not to be missed.