Complex. Conflicted. Utterly compelling.
The angular form on stage with microphone gripped tightly in hand promises songs by REO Speedwagon and “that guy from The Eagles” in front of a capacity hotel ballroom crowd. Off-white paint, mid nineties carpet patterns and incredibly low lighting are the order of the day. As the frontman struts stage right, jesting with the front few rows, a band lurk in the shadows. Chandeliers? Don Henley? The set from The Shining? This could be your worst nightmare.
This is no ordinary hotel ballroom singer. This is Mark Kozelek, formerly of Red House Painters and fronting the dynamic Sun Kil Moon outfit in Bangor as part of Open House Festival. Yes, Mark Kozelek. Erstwhile troller of The War On Drugs, acerbically-tongued media goader and bona-fide wordsmith extraordinaire. Kozelek is no stranger to confrontation although tonight it seems all beef has been left at the door and the mercurial genius reminisces of a delicious clam chowder lunch overlooking Bangor’s historic seafront, which bears a strong resemblance to the shutdown funfair on Red House Painters’ ‘Rollercoaster’. He doesn’t seem to know where he is geographically. Nervous shuffling amongst the audience suggests there’s much more of an unknown in the room.
Sun Kil Moon tonight features Kozelek, pacing on vocals, occasionally floor tom and disarming, playful with and charm. Backed by Desertshore, it’s a formidable lineup on stage. ‘Micheline’ from the critically acclaimed ‘Benji’ opens a set thankfully void of Don Henley and REO Speedwagon tunes. The vocals are more baritone than on record, lending an even darker texture in those lower octaves. With hand gestures and tongue firmly in cheek Mark Kozelek is sparring with the mixed bag of a crowd. “Here’s a song about Satan, cocaine and prostitutes” he almost grins introducing ‘I Love My Dad’ before taunting local semi-celebrity hairdresser Paul Stafford about his mod style. “You look like Paul Wellar, man. Your songs fucking suck!”
Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon