Vetiver shows roots, growth at First Unitarian

Andy Cab­ic greeted a sweaty crowd in the base­ment of the First Unit­ari­an Church in Cen­ter City last night, dap­per in a derby cap and vest that be­lied the hu­mid Septem­ber even­ing.

But, with a rapt audi­ence the Vet­iver lead sing­er thanked for be­ing “ so well be­haved,” the five piece coolly rolled through a well-ex­ecuted set that fea­tured time­worn fa­vor­ites as well as dy­nam­ic per­form­ances off their latest LP, The Er­rant Charm.

And while the drab, dimly lit set­ting hardly seemed fit­ting for so sunny a band, they quickly filled the room with col­or, lead­ing off with “Won­der Why” — one of the tracks Sup Pop re­leased be­fore drop­ping the full-length, 10-track re­cord in mid June.

It would seem a sum­mer of tour­ing has worn those songs well for the band, with a sim­mer­ing per­form­ance rous­ing the crowd from the first riff on­ward.

Stay­ing true to their pen­chant for a craft­ily re­worked cov­er, the second song of their set spun the Go-Betweens’ “Streets of Your Town” in­to a dark, shad­owy psych jam laced with cool gui­tar work.

Fans re­spon­ded en­thu­si­ast­ic­ally when the first, thud­ding chords of “Strictly Rule” off of 2009’sTight Knit filled the room, with Cab­ic jok­ingly de­scrib­ing the song as him “try­ing to pre­tend I’m in The Rain Parade,” a short-lived Los Angeles band that re­cor­ded in the 1980s.

They fol­lowed that num­ber with Er­rant Charm’s  ldquo;Hard to Break,” of­fer­ing a mel­lowed-out, dreamy rock tune that seemed to cap­tiv­ate the room, even as the band broke off in­to a bit of a rock­ing in­ter­lude be­fore the song re­turned to its dreamy pace.

In­deed, with the band re­cord­ing at WX­PN’s West Philly stu­di­os earli­er in the day and a num­ber of loc­al mu­si­cians com­ing out to the Sept. 14 show, it seemed Vet­iver dis­played a strong fol­low­ing here, with fans re­act­ing strongly even to their new­est num­bers — and this at a show where the Fruit Bats head­lined.

One of the most pas­sion­ate songs of the night, “Right Away” show­cased their clas­sic blend of rock­ing gui­tar ar­range­ments and wist­ful, honey-smooth vo­cals.

That was fol­lowed by Tight Knit’s gor­geous love song, “Every­day,” a po­et­ic charm­er car­ried along by a simple series of do-do-do’s that had the crowd sway­ing along to Cab­ic’s sweet croon­ing. 

If that song had the room melt­ing in­to a little puddle of love, the ex­treme riffs and bluesy boo­gie that fol­lowed surely broke the trance, with the band show­ing they still have plenty of rock ‘n’ roll left in them.

Through and through, it was a lively set, one fin­ished off with a rol­lick­ing, hand-clap­ping rendi­tion of “Wish­ing Well.” 

Mo­ments like that make for in­ter­est­ing con­tem­pla­tion for long­time fans who can re­mem­ber the days when big­ger beards and con­nec­tions to De­vendra Ban­hart seemed to define their or­gan­ic roots and hippy lean­ings.

Yet, even with Er­rant Charm and its lush, com­plex lay­ers be­ing seen by some as a de­par­ture from their per­haps sim­pler folk be­gin­nings, it was hard to see that dis­tance here — songs from across their cata­logue seemed quite com­fort­able to­geth­er on stage, and the crowd gladly ate it up on this warm Septem­ber night.••

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