Mark Kozelek has been a regular visitor to these shores over the last ten years, returning every 18 months or so. This has been a high profile year for him, receiving some of his best ever reviews for the rather hit-and-miss album Benji, while also engaging in a war of words with War On Drugs (google it). So there was a larger than usual crowds in attendance to see Sun Kil Moon in the flesh. What followed was unlike any other show involving Mark Kozelek I have ever seen, or any other artist for that matter. Over a lengthy set accompanied by a guitarist and keyboard player, instead of his usual combination of guitar and attitude, Kozelek stood playing drums and sang. And WHAT vocals. Gone was the ennui-laden delivery of the past, replaced by shouty, almost bellowed vocals on songs like Hey You Bastards I’m Still Here and The Possum. Those hoping for Red House Painters songs or indeed anything pre-2012 would be disappointed, the set leaned heavily on Benji material.
He did give us seasonal renditions of Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song, Do You Hear What I Hear and Little Drummer Boy, the latter complete with “parum-pum-pums”. When Kozelek did pick up the guitar he delivered impressive versions of I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love, Black Kite and Carissa. But he never quite settled, jumping up to take percussion duties, or badger anyone with the temerity to use the exit door next to the stage while telling stories about a girl from Galway who mistook the closet for a toilet. Just when we thought there were no further surprises in store, he called for a volunteer to come on stage with him to duet on cringing version of I Got You Babe, the young lad changing the lyrics to “I got you Mark”. Almost as cringey as the inevitable version of War On Drugs: Suck My Cock he has been airing at every opportunity.
Not content with guest singers, Kozelek gave up on drums and recruited a replacement drummer from the crowd to “keep a beat” for the remaining songs, after which Kozelek handed him a wad of notes. A bizarre, unpredictable, patience-trying and not entirely enjoyable gig. It was a gig unlike many others, with a sense of comedy, danger and farce. Deeply strange and certainly… unique.