Mark Kozelek at Black Box, Belfast

On the face of this it could have been a dull evening, listening to one man and his guitar all night. But Mark Kozelek’s guitar technique is a cut above the rest. He faced a battle with sound problems for the entire night, burying his indistinct vocals in a muddy mix. When his voice emerged from the murk, there was a richness and warmth to his vocals.

His attitude on stage was belligerent and cranky. But as a musician, Kozelek excels. Every song was rendered in a similar style, a highly intricate yet austere sounding finger-picking. That suggests a monotony to the evening but it was far from that.

He did play Red House Painters favourites such as Summer Dress and Trailways, but displayed little interest in them, far more interested in playing random cover versions (Danzig’s 13, ACDC’s Bad Boy Boogie and a ropey Whiskey in the Jar) and impromptu self-mocking made up on the spot songs (or at least that’s how it sounded).

But it was his most recent Sun Kil Moon material which worked best. His guitar technique on complex songs such as Australian Winter, Heron Blue and Half Moon Bay was simply mesmerizing.

Afterwards he shook a few hands, sold a few CDs and then was gone, into the night, box of CDs in his arms. A strange, yet apt exit. Mark Kozelek demands a lot of the listener but is a vital guitarist and a must see in concert.

Killian Laher.

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