Jesu/Sun Kil Moon

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author LF date 26/09/16 venue DR Koncerthuset, Copenhagen, DEN

In my experience with Mark Kozelek and his Sun Kil Moon project, I have appreciated his recent tendency to write stream-of-consciousness lyrics, capturing everyday doings as well as the feelings and thoughts that accompany them. It makes for an enchantingly simple and complex expression at one and the same time that is hard to compare to any other specific artist. Jesu aka Justin Broadrick I mostly know as a multi-instrumental person releasing pleasantly noisy and droning music that is easy to get lost in. The musical combination of the two of them has however annoyed me since the release of their album "Jesu / Sun Kil Moon" in January. To me, the overflowing vocals are not always easy to discern when the guitar calls for attention on its own, and the beautiful soundscapes weaved by the instruments seem in their turn to be interrupted in their grandness by the very busy lyrics.

I am thus not sure what to expect from tonight's performance but I want to go nonetheless because individually I have great faith in the two artists. They are joined by Nick Zubeck on a six-stringed bass and Scott McPherson on drums. The latter is very much in the background throughout the show but to my delight, I find it much easier to swim away here in the slowly circling guitar riffs that Broadrick provides than I do when listening to the album. Kozelek's sometimes mumbling style is also hypnotic in itself but stands out clearer than normally today. As such, the two can provide the background for each other, depending on which of them you focus on yourself, and this great balance no doubt has to do with the impressive confines of Koncertsalen which always seems to have stellar sound quality.

Jesu / Sun Kil Moon performing "Exodus" on January 22nd in Paris

Initially, we get a mostly improvised song where Kozelek sings about his very recent experiences with touring in Netherlands and Denmark, also warning us in the lyrics, that this show is going to be three hours long, "I hope you'll stay, this show is gonna be three hours, let's see if you stay". Now, the self-titled album is just 80 minutes long in itself with songs ranging between 6 and 14 minutes. We get to hear pretty much all of that but we also get 4 new songs, one of which we are assured is going to be on their next album that will come out next year. They range for instance from a pretty snarky song in which Michael Jackson and his death are referenced repeatedly (and which receives several bursts of laughter from the audience), to songs that are received more seriously about bombs and how terrorism and shootings are disturbing Kozelek's thoughts currently. A single Sun Kil Moon cover is also played in the shape of the groovy "Cry Me A River Williamsburg Sleeve Tattoo Blues" from the latest album "Universal Themes".

The simple and touching "Exodus" that departs from Kozelek's receiving the news that Nick Cave's son has died, easily makes for the most beautiful highlight of tonight with its chanting of "For all bereaved parents, I send you my love" which is hard not to choke up to. It is also a remarkable break in the heavy self-irony and dry humour that otherwise dominates Kozelek's stage presence and many of his songs. The more snarky remarks include one addressed towards his own fans, when he reads a fan letter aloud in the song "Last Night I Rocked the Room Like Elvis and Had Them Laughing Like Richard Pryor" and pauses dramatically with a teasing look to us after the lines "I think it's one for the fans, for the people that have listened to you for twenty years, not for the hipsters who only like you because of Benji" (Benji being one of his latest albums).

My favorite shows are the ones that open up the artist's recordings and get me to appreciate new things, and this one definitely succeeded in doing just that, even though some of the long songs drag out and make me lose focus from time to time. In the live setting, Kozelek is obviously the more dominating of the two, because his lyrics simply take center stage and he also takes care of most crowd interaction. Still, it's obvious if one knows his Sun Kil Moon songs, that the instrumental side in this project is very different. Tonight, the music of Jesu and Sun Kil Moon really metamorphose into one huge and very coherent whole that takes us from noisy to quiet compositions and from hilarious to serious and emotional moments - all in the span of 2½ hours that end up passing more quickly than I had imagined.

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