Mark Kozelek presents an evening of gentle memories and broken embraces.
The lead writer and singer of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, along with a slew of solo works, Mark Kozelek is a man with a diverse reputation.
Surly, brilliant, morose, engaging, bleak, beautiful, genius, master acoustic interpreter of AC/DC songs. It depends on who you ask, how you approach the music he creates as far as his live performances are concerned and what kind of mood Mark is in. He has a mammoth catalogue of layered, dense songs that reward perseverance and attentiveness with an aura of autumnal simplicity. It is melancholic and often maudlin music that attracts devotees and obsessives, in the same way Nick Drake and other bastions of acoustical reverence do. This gig, which incidentally was a befitting night of ‘finals‘ was Kozelek’s final show of the tour and also the final performance to be held at the Brunswick short lived music venue, Phoenix Public House. The gig hosted a set featuring many of Kozelek’s masterful complexities and characteristics.
Entering the Phoenix on a frozen midwinter eve, each patron was issued strict instructions: NO phones, NO cameras were to be used during the performance. This no doubt was a directive from Kozelek to prevent distraction but it also proved endlessly beneficial to the atmosphere and temporal climate of the gig. Though the room was probably only half full, the majority of the audience stood in reverential full attention to Kozelek’s performance throughout – no fidgeting with devices, no flashing cameras thrust suddenly into your sight line and certainly no chirruping and whirring of phones.
This solo tour, a rare treat for Australian Kozelek fans, occurs in support of the troubadour’s recent Sun Kil Moon LP Among The Leaves – the new release sees Kozelek’s often long form, soul searching, lyric heavy songs, transgressing into shorter, often slightly self deprecating tracks. The mammoth 2 hour and 15 minute set included a number of new songs including the wonderfully sardonic (and possibly autobiographical in nature) track The Moderately Talented Yet Attractive Young Woman vs. The Exceptionally Talented Yet Not So Attractive Middle Aged Man.
Self deprecating and offering some sly witty banter between songs, Kozelek embraced the crowd taking requests whilst struggling to combat a squeaking sound omitting somewhere from within the room. In the age of over production and ear bleeding amplification the staunch silence of the crowd between songs added a special reverence to the set. Witnessing Kozelek’s mesmerizing guitar and droning voice live is a transfixing experience as the labyrinthine nature of his songs leads audiences through gloomy passages and down to deep, dark depths of regret, remorse and redemption . The songs almost melded together such was the similarity of tempo and delivery and while some may have found this repetitive and boring, most in attendance were absorbed by the murky waters Kozelek guides his willing audience through. Lyrically, Kozelek’s songs are engrossing decrees and declarations, pulling the listener along in a pulsing undertow. Kozelek’s low, haunting voice is central to this effect delivering a unique descriptive and literate form of song writing. A rolling, evocative rendition of fan favorite “Carry Me Ohio” appeared towards the end of the set, which was followed by a loose 30 minute encore.
Kozelek’s work demands a profound attention from listeners and it’s refreshing to witness an artist presenting a stripped back show, performing distinctive compositions. Those lucky brave souls that took the ride to the final song went back out into the winter’s night savoring an evening of beautifully performed solemn songs that, like a fine aged liqueur warmed the heart and left a long, bittersweet aftertaste.