Abel Tesfaye's dark, twisted album is at odds with the glossy pop world he's been thrust into
Barfly, London, March 7th
a bit then walks off again, no-one seems remotely riled. This remains
the tone, both onstage and off, for the rest of the evening.
When he returns, Vile’s acoustic meanderings are the musical equivalent of a massive spliff, and everyone here seems far too baked to do more than sway, smile and soak up the vibes. Despite forthcoming album ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’ nearing release, tonight’s 60-minute set draws predominantly from Vile’s 2011 breakthrough fourth LP ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’. In this intimate setting it seems a wasted opportunity for the War On Drugs founder not to showcase his new stuff, but the crowd seems happy with what they’re given. ‘Hunchback’ – taken from third album ‘Childish Prodigy’ and usually buoyed by backing band The Violators – receives a stripped-down reimagining, its heavier throb replaced by acoustic restraint. The depleted version fits well with the American’s better-known output.
The familiar guitar lines of ‘Jesus Fever’ get the biggest cheers – two years down the line it still sounds as dreamily lush as ever – while ‘Baby’s Arms’ is an introverted, hypnotic display of expert simplicity. The two new tracks he plays – ‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’ and ‘KV Crimes’ – sync in easily, the former coming on like a pared-down Real Estate, the latter stripped back to something altogether more easy-going and subtle.
The problem, perhaps, is that, without his backing band, Vile’s naturally relaxed and gentle demeanour means all tonight’s offerings come out sounding the same. There are no peaks (or, to be fair, troughs). Everything is pleasant, but not exciting. But with everyone here squashing in and blissing out, that’s just about
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