Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mark Kozelek - Factory Theatre, 8/6/12

Mark Kozelek looks like an unassuming guy, he could easily pass as one of the men who work at the car repair place near my house. However, that unassuming nature is washed away when he says "hello" and launches into Ă…lesund. For Kozelek's fans, it is about the voice and when it is live before you it is a wonderful and miraculous thing. With nothing more than a nylon string guitar and slight reverb on his voice and instrument, that voice that defines Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon is pure, upfront and powerful. That voice can sell the cheesiest lyrics and bring gravity to highest stratospheres - it is captivating and grounds the evening even when it gets awkward. 

The tracks from the new record sounded a lot brighter on stage. Album highlight That Bird Has A Broken Wing rolled with a melancholic anger while a powerful rendition of Elaine was the closest to rock Kozelek strayed. Track Number 8, took on a wistful heaviness live while the fluffed UK Blues towards the end of the set was hilarious. The Spanish inflections of the Admiral Fell Promises material was probably the definition of acoustic shredding. Fittingly, he played Australian Winter in the freezing venue in our winter (while last night's 9 degrees may seem like nothing in some parts of the world, it's positively arctic to us).

Leaning heavily on the new record and Admiral Fell Promises, the night was punctuated with hilarious asides and awkwardly funny stage banter that belied Kozelek's miserablist image. The good natured insults of Australia ("How can you download my new album? You guy's only have dial up.") was well received and there were plenty of laughs to be had. The majority of the crowd were genuinely in awe and even the inevitable requests for songs were endearing and respectful. One brave fan yelled "Carry me Ohio, if you want, it's up to you" (it wasn't played). Mark himself tried to start a conversation with two girls in the front row which degenerated into awkwardness as the drunk girls spoke unintelligibly to bemused and slightly needy musician. I guess all those references to one night stands on the new record are from experience. However, that interchange led to a medley of Danzig's Thirteen, Summer Dress and the aforementioned UK Blues which was amazing.

The evening had a simple theme: purity. One man and a guitar singing songs that are moving and immediate. There are no tricks, gimmicks or props to hide behind and as unassuming as Kozelek appears on stage, there is something fearless about his work. A great, great performance.


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