To rock, or not to rock?

Or rather, would it be wiser to take a calculated risk and go forth into a packed music venue now, or smarter to wait a little longer in hopes of rocking again in a presumably safer manner in the near future?

In the omicron stage of the pandemic, those are the questions. At least they’re the ones I was weighing while eyeing Kurt Vile’s show at Anchor Rock Club in Atlantic City on Saturday night.

I had the date circled for months. The show was to be Philly rock hero Vile’s first plugged-in electric outing with his band the Violators since the pandemic began.

And also an intimate underplay, an industry term for an act performing in a room smaller than they’re capable of filling. The last time I saw Vile with the Violators it was at the 3,400-capacity Met Philly in December 2018. The Anchor holds 650.

The other lure was the Anchor itself. I grew up next door to Atlantic City in Ventnor, and in the decades that I’ve been going to see live music, I can count on one hand the number of cool shows I’ve seen on Absecon Island that weren’t in a casino.

But now, AC has the Anchor, which is being booked by Philly music vets with years of Johnny Brenda’s experience. The club originally opened in September 2019 only to be shut by the pandemic. Since reopening last summer, it’s faced the challenges all live venues have, with the emergence of first the delta and now the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

» READ MORE: An indie venue is coming to life in Atlantic City from a team with Johnny Brenda’s cred

I’ve been itching to check out the room, but missed Hop Along and Real Estate this fall. And then two more choice bookings I was targeting over the holidays — indie legends Guided By Voices and Philly rock and soul band Low Cut Connie — got canceled by omicron.

It seemed like Vile’s show might have the same fate. Lots of January and February tours are being postponed. Cat Power was supposed to play the TLA on Thursday, but will now do the South Street venue April 17. Others are going forward, with modifications: Vile’s pals The War on Drugs’ Met Philly shows on Jan. 27 and 28 are on, but they’ve dropped the opening acts from all tour dates and are asking fans to mask up even in cities that unlike Philadelphia don’t have a mask mandate.

They don’t have one in Atlantic City, either, though the Anchor did require proof of vaccination or a negative test for entry. And at the door of the nearly sold-out venue (and posted throughout the room) was a message imploring fans to follow best practices so that the show — and the band’s date on Monday at Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky festival in Mexico — could go on.

It read: “Hello! KV (and band and crew) … would love it if everyone could make an extra effort to really keep masks on properly at all times, other than sneaking sips of your tasty beverage of choice. … Thanks so much!!”

Besides being vaxxed and boosted, my own precaution included being double-masked — KN95 plus surgical — and getting a negative result from a rapid test just to make sure I didn’t already have an asymptomatic case.

And with that — after a requisite amount of angsting — I was ready to rock.

To cut down on the amount of time I spent inside, I skipped experimental guitarist opener Bill Nace. I came into the room for Pissed Jeans, the Philly-based antimacho hard-core punk band fronted by Matt Korvette, who made a winning racket and got the mostly-masked crowd whipped into a frenzy as they waited for Vile.

Between sets, I was out shivering on an empty Boardwalk, peering into the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not that shares a wall with the club. And then back inside as Vile and his backing trio of drummer Kyle Spence and Rob Laakso and Jesse Trbovich (who each played bass, guitar, and keyboards) opened with “Loading Zones,” about gaming the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

The Anchor, which will host the Dead Milkmen on May 13, is an inviting room. With a horseshoe-shaped balcony, it feels like a larger Johnny Brenda’s or a cozier Union Transfer. The upstairs bar area allows for some social distancing, but if you want to see the band, you need to be up against the railing.

Downstairs, the sight lines are excellent, with the stage nestled into the surrounding crowd in a way that feels genuinely intimate. There’s an excellent craft beer list, and parking directly across the street on New York Avenue was $10.

Vile followed “Loading Zones” with the treat of the night: a rugged cover of “Punks in the Beerlight,” by the Silver Jews, the band fronted by the late great indie songwriter David Berman, who died in 2019.

» READ MORE: With ‘Bottle It In,’ Philly rock star Kurt Vile is back with his best album

The rest of the 90-minute set, which ran into early Sunday morning, was a career survey that pulled from 2015′s b’lieve i’m goin down... and 2018′s Bottle It In, but also reached as far as 2011′s Smoke Ring for My Halo.

Several songs explored Vile’s great subjects: ambivalence and dislocation. That was suitable for an uneasy moment when indoor gatherings that aim to deliver emotional release — as this one surely did — are also shot through with uncertainty.

Tunes that found Vile to be of two minds included “Pretty Pimpin” (his best song) and “Bassackwards,” an expansive guitar jam inspired by summer days in Ocean City. “I was on the beach, but I was thinking about the bay,” he talked-sang. “Got to the bay, but by then I was far away.”

The encore started off roaring, with “KV Crimes” crunching like Neil Young and Crazy Horse. But high-volume catharsis was followed by two quiet Smoke Rings songs: “Peeping Tomboy” and “Baby’s Arms,” each with Vile on acoustic guitar.

The latter was a tender, antisocial call for cocooning, seeking shelter from the big bad world outside particularly suitable for a frigid winter’s night in omicron season. “I get sick of just about everyone,” Vile sang. “Then I hide in my baby’s arms.”