Kurt Vile w/ opener Sonny & the Sunsets | 08.17.13

Kurt-Vile 75Vile is a very gifted guitar player, and it showed all night but particularly with acoustic tracks.

Kurt-Vile 500

The Firebird, St Louis

Last night was a great night for a great rock and roll show. It was a Saturday for starters, the weather has been amazing this weekend, the crowd was in a very good mood; all the key starters to a great show experience. Happy to say opener Sonny & the Sunsets and the main act Kurt Vile did not disappoint and helped make it a great night overall.

Sonny & the Sunsets got things off to a great start. Most of the audience didn’t seem to know who they were, which didn’t diminish everyone’s appreciation for them. Their music is probably best described as what we all considered “college rock” back in the late 80s and early 90s—Indie rock meets jangle pop meets power pop.

They were fun to watch and their songs, even though they are slightly self-deprecating lyrically, were joyous and buoyant to hear. At one point, leader Sonny Smith put down his guitar and came out and danced and sang in the crowd. It was a little odd but totally fit the song he was singing and, even though it was out of the norm, it made it fun. I saw quite a few people after their set concluded hit the merchandise table to buy an album. Another thing to note, their drummer is highly energetic and animated and was a blast to watch. Normally you do not get to see drummers very well as they are buried at the back of the stage. Since they were the opener, their stage setup was all right there in front. He was having an absolute blast beating the drums to death. Successful job for a great opener. RIYL-Superchunk, Teenage Fanclub, Pavement

There was not a huge break between Sonny’s set and Vile taking the stage, which was very much appreciated. Vile didn’t waste a lot of time getting right into his set. He immediately dove into tracks from his latest album (my review of Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze http://playbackstl.com/music-reviews/12529-kurt-vile-wakin-on-a-pretty-daze-matador-records-limited). He played almost every cut from the album with the exception of the dreamy album closer, “Goldtone.” It shows that he really is supporting it and cares about what he has done on it. He did incorporate songs from Smoke Ring for My Halo and Childish Prodigy, which are fantastic albums and the songs he chose from them played well in a live setting, especially “Freak Train” and “Hunchback,” which came later in their set. In the middle of his set, the band left for a short break, which allowed Vile to play several acoustic songs. The audience quieted so you could hear him better, thankfully. This allowed one to really see and hear his talent with a guitar. He is a very gifted guitar player, and it showed all night but particularly with these acoustic tracks. Vile’s backing band, The Violators, are a very talented bunch as well and were not overshadowed by Vile’s prodigious guitar skills. Jesse Trbovich and Rob Laakso both are multi-instrumentalists and really helped deliver a huge sound, and the drummer was a behemoth! Again, seeing talented and highly animated drummers is a great thing. The band seemed to be plagued with sound issues all night, as they were constantly signaling to the soundboard to fix their issues. As the set went on, it did seem to get louder and louder. This didn’t stop any of the members from delivering great performances, however.

It’s nice seeing artists in much more intimate settings like The Firebird, but sometimes they need a bigger setting to fully get and appreciate their sound. With as much critical acclaim as Vile has received of the last few years, it was surprising he was playing a club show. No complaints really about that as the fans get to see a great band up close and personal, but one has to wonder what his spacey and huge sound would be like in a venue like Peabody Opera House or The Pageant. Overall, excellent night all around. | Mike Koehler

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