Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Sun Kil MoonPrevious Next
author LF date 22/07/15 venue Bremen Teater, Copenhagen, DEN
Since I first heard of the American folk rock/sadcore singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek, he has released two albums under his current recording moniker Sun Kil Moon. One of them is the amazing "Benji" that came out in February 2014 and the other is "Universal Themes" from June this year which I'm still trying to figure out. It's been about a year since I last had the pleasure of experiencing his music live and while that was a mixed experience, I've been looking forward to giving it another chance. One of the reasons that I have my hopes up for the show tonight is the choice of the seated venue Bremen Teater which as I had hoped turns out to be a perfect fit for Kozelek's word-heavy songs and jokey showmanship.
As I sit and wait for the clock to strike show-time, I wonder about the set-up of instruments on stage as it includes two entire drum kits and seemingly three guitars and no bass. When the five men that compose the live band enter the stage, Kozelek doesn't grab a guitar as I expect him to but rather he takes a spot up front where he keeps time on an extra cymbal and drum that is placed there next to his microphone. The two drum kits are used simultaneously but softly for the duration of the set and one of them is occupied by none other than Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth while Neil Halstead of Slowdive sits on a chair to the side of the stage and plays guitar and provides supporting vocals. Kozelek explains later that the fifth member is really using a mix of bass and guitar strings on his guitar and with that, the set-up doesn't look so odd anymore.
Kozelek seems in a good mood from the beginning, playing consciously into the more recent media image of him as an asshole provocateur by announcing with a sly smile that Denmark is the home of the world's best all-girl band Mew, which results in big laughs and applause from the audience in the sold-out venue. He is generally very communicative tonight, especially in the latter half of his set where he jokes casually with himself, the band and the audience in equal measure, creating a pretty intimate and relaxed atmosphere. The music supports this as well with the first half of the set including some very calm performances of some of his most beautiful songs from "Benji" as well as a dark cover of "The Weeping Song", originally by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
Some of these songs do not feature much else than guitar and vocals on record and one thing that works really well throughout the set tonight is this expansion of the songs that happens with the addition of more instruments. They mostly retain the same vibe as in their original versions but especially Halstead's guitar-play gives new life to some of them as he simply plays some of the riffs differently than Kozelek does on record, for instance often varying the rhythm. Now, Kozelek is not always very focused on pronouncing his words and tonight he also mumbles his way through some of his lyrics with his word-heavy and at times almost spoken-word style. This isn't exactly helped by the addition of instruments and thus I certainly don't learn any new lyrics tonight which is a bit of a shame as his winding stories are mostly worthwhile to follow all the way through a song. Lucky for me, this doesn't become a problem as he plays all of six songs from "Benji", three from the more recent "Universal Themes" and only four songs from collaborations of his that I'm not as familiar with as his Sun Kil Moon songs.
With the shift in the set to some of his newest material with the singles "The Possum" and "Ali/Spinks 2", Kozelek grabs a guitar himself and the rhythm section gets louder, suiting the raw energy of the compositions very well. Later on I am pleasantly surprised at getting to hear one of my favorites from "Benji", an emotional performance of "I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same", and as the regular set ends, Kozelek almost turns into a comedian as he freestyles the ending of "This Is My First Day And I'm Indian And I Work At A Gas Station" to make it fit to his show tonight in Copenhagen. Even though Kozelek has proclaimed his tiredness and has been sitting down for some songs already, the band returns for an encore of two songs from Mark Kozelek's collaboration with Jimmy LaValle from The Album Leaf. Kozelek sits down in a free seat amongst the audience and sings "Caroline" with competent help from the woman next to him, and finally the evening is closed by the beautiful "Ceiling Gazing".
While I am never exactly blown away by any of the songs tonight, the venue is as mentioned a great fit for this kind of music and for the kind of performer that Mark Kozelek is. As such the show, tonight is overall pretty solid with a set-list that has a good mix of the bleak and humorous sides of Kozelek's output in recent years. When I look at the time as I exit the venue I'm surprised when I find I've been losing track of it for the past two and a half hours and this ability to make the audience lose themselves in his music is certainly also proof of the songwriting and performing capabilities of Mark Kozelek.
- 1. Mariette (Mark Kozelek & Desertshore cover)
- 2. Hey You Bastard I'm Still Here (Mark Kozelek & Desertshore cover)
- 3. Micheline
- 4. Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes
- 5. The Weeping Song (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds cover)
- 6. Carissa
- 7. The Possum
- 8. Ali/Spinks 2
- 9. I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same
- 10. Dogs
- 11. I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love
- 12. This Is My First Day And I'm Indian And I Work At A Gas Station
- 13. Caroline (Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle cover)
- 14. Ceiling Gazing (Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle cover)