If there’s a direct lineage between any Matador Records bands, the slack line definitely extends from Pavement to Kurt Vile. His laconic, meandering style isn’t quite the trademarked Californian laid back, but you’d be hard pressed to peg him as a battery-throwing Philadelphian. After a handful or two of LPs and EPs on Matador, Kurt’s moved over to record for Verve, but his sound hasn’t changed all that much. Which isn’t a bad thing; he’s an accomplished guitarist and can write a memorable song or three.
“Pretty Pimpin'” is definitely his most popular track and for good reason, it’s catchier than RSV in an elementary school. Occasionally addressing the crowd from his omnipresent of curtain of hair that hangs over his face, Vile switched guitars a lot and played a couple of solo songs on acoustic guitar about six or seven songs in, including what had to be a career highlight for Vile when he recorded a John Prine cover with Prine, shortly before Prine’s death.
Despite seeing him over a dozen times, I’ve still not heard him play my favorite solo track yet but maybe one of these days he’ll reach deep into the discography and pencil it on the set list. He did reprise at least one song from his early days and “Hunchback” was slowed down a bit but still sounded great; a rave-up with “Freak Train” would have been nice and longtime sidekick Jesse Trbovich didn’t break out his sax at all and barely played guitar, concentrating on keyboards for a big chunk of the set. Another familiar face who was a recent departure as a Violator also made an appearance for a few songs towards the end; Rob Laasko has some deep Boston roots via Swirlies and other bands and it was nice to see him back on stage with KV again. At this point, Vile’s become like that well-worn flannel shirt in your closet; nothing new but comforting. I can’t see it going out of style.
Sunday night shows can be a tough situation to draw a full room, but tonight there was an extra pull with longtime local vets Come opening up, and also continuing the Matador Records theme. They have recently been back in action after Fire Records reissued their excellent second record and an unreleased Peel Sessions record, and there is more in the reissue campaign on the horizon.
Come were always one of my favorite bands in the ’90s, with vets like Thalia Zedek (Live Skull, Uzi, Dangerous Birds) and Chris Brokaw (Codeine and plenty of bands after Come) forging a unique twin-guitar attack alchemy that still sounds distinctive; no one quite fuses weary blues and barbed wire runs quite like that duo. Years on the band still smolders with an intensity that most bands can’t touch, and tonight jagged rippers like “String,” “In/Out” and “Submerge” were powerful statements. Amazing performance from one of Boston’s best-ever.