Most Of The Crowd May Have Showed Up To McFarlin Auditorium On Friday As Courtney Barnett Fans, But They Definitely Left As Kurt Vile Fans, Too.
Kurt Vile’s been making music for a longer time than Courtney Barnett has — that’s just a fact. But after blowing up in the wake of releasing her stellar 2015 debut Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit LP, Barnett’s certainly become the bigger name of the two.
On the off chance that anyone didn’t know this heading into these singer-songwriters’ joint offering at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium on Friday night — a gig that came as part of a tour supporting of their earlier-this-year-released collaborative Lotta Sea Lice album, a sort of Watch The Throne for the cardigan-wearing and weed-smoking set — it became quite obvious eight songs into the set.
That’s when Barnett — making just her second-ever Dallas appearance after her phenomenal 2015 gig at Club Dada — launched into “Depreston,” her smart and pithy ode to suburban malaise, very much to the audible excitement of the audience, which had mostly taken in the night’s offering rather quietly and politely to that point. Backed by Vile and three backing players who filled out the two’s sound, it was Barnett’s first real star turn of the night — a moment the crowd had been anticipating, clearly.
Yes, this night’s crowd certainly skewed in Barnett’s favor as far as recognition went. Beyond Lotta Sea Lice‘s material, the audience really didn’t seem too familiar with Vile’s songs at all.
But by the end of the duo’s 90-minute song-swap of a set that was neatly split between their collaborative tracks and solo joints, Vile had endeared himself to this audience by more than holding his own beside Barnett and engaging in some winning banter.
His timing was impressive, too. Right after Barnett finished “Depreston,” an overzealous audience member yelled out his approval of the performance with a shout of “Girl power!” Vile, refusing to wilt in the face of what objectively felt like a bit of a slight, immediately took to his microphone to respond.
“Thanks a lot, bro,” he said, pointing at himself with an expression that read “I’m standing right here!” and sarcastically addressing that fan directly.
Following a round of hearty laughter and supportive applause from the crowd, Vile then he dryly introduced his own next song without skipping a beat.
“This next song,” he said in hilariously deadpan tone, “is about life.”
Few songs aren’t, but this one — “Life Like This” — very literally lived up to Vile’s billing. A real turning point in the night, Vile performed the song with gusto, as if to prove his mettle and show off why he and Barnett make for a fine match indeed. The two actually share many an attribute: Both write guitar-centric songs with vocals that blur the line between spoken word and honest-to-goodness singing, only Vile is far more deliberate in his pacing — as if Barnett were on lean, more or less. All at once, the room seemed to understand that. It was enough to turn most in the room into fast fans.
And what he said after finishing the song convinced anyone left undecided: “I was just kidding, by the way,” he said, chuckling and welcoming the court jester role he’d wear for the rest of the night. “I’m all about girl power.”
Really, though, this show served as testament to different powers — those of thoughtful songwriting and gamely attitudes. Combine those elements, and a performer really can’t lose. Better still, pair up two performers — ones who just happen to share the first names of legit rock royalty — boasting them into one entity and you’ve got a real winner on your hands.
Friday night at McFarlin was definitely that.