Gig: Mark Kozelek (Oran Mor, Glasgow, 31/10/07)

Down Colorful Hill was a huge favourite of mine when it appeared out of the blue fifteen years ago. But I’ve not really kept up with Mark Kozelek’s music since the eccentric, but inspired, AC/DC covers album What’s Next To The Moon. The only time I saw Red House Painters was way back in 1993 at Manchester University. So tonight was either going to be a reacquaintance with an old friend, or a confirmation of a parting of ways.

Kozelek’s always had a faintly unappealing air of arrogance about him. That came out in some of the crowd banter tonight, which at times verged on the snide. He arrived on stage wearing a Halloween mask, which was a nice touch. The joke wore thin, though, when he kept it on through the first half of the set. He was accompanied by a seated second guitarist who remained anonymous – not spoken to, referred to or even acknowledged. Just the hired help, I guess. I have to confess that the vast majority of the material was unfamiliar. The only original that I recognized was “Brockwell Park” from Ocean Beach – almost topical as it was inspired by bonfire night in south London. Kozelek has an appealing, wistful tenor which is very easy to listen to. The problem was that most of the songs had the same mood, feel and melodic lines. For long periods my mind was wandering as another self-piteous paean issued forth from the stage. Taken in isolation, many of them are actually pretty good songs. It’s just that the homogeneity of the set got wearing. I longed for something a little more upbeat, or just something with some kind of passion instead of the endless fog of resignation. Kozelek has often been compared to Mark Eitzel. While Eitzel’s songwriting skills may have deserted him, he still sings everything like he means it. Tonight just felt like motions being gone through. A sea of rapt faces around me seemed to disagree. At the end I strolled home through knots of drunken witches and Freddy Kruegers and slapped on some Four Tops, thoroughly depressed by the whole evening.


3 responses to “Gig: Mark Kozelek (Oran Mor, Glasgow, 31/10/07)

  1. I think this is an occasion where familiarity with the material would definitely have helped. Kozelek gave a spellbinding performance in Manchester the night before, singing beautifully throughout, paying due respect to the hired help, bantering about Ricky Hatton, and generally-in a low key way-seeming to enjoy himself. For a man whose behaviour at live shows is notoriously tetchy this was quite something.

  2. Having never been to a Mark Kozelek gig before and loved Sin Kil Moon, suits my mood but was disappointed and saddened by this guy’s typical American abroad attitude where if it is unfamiliar as in a Glasgow accent then it is there to be ridiculed and despised. I just cannot get my head round the attitude,
    we paid good money, not to look at a grotesque mask,I could not square it with the beautiful sound even when it finally came off the mood had been set and the mask was still there. He said he was tired , five gigs in so many days, making some similar disparaging remarks anout the Portugese gig – maybe he should just get a regular job if this one does not suit him, most of us aspire to a muso life…still I bought the cd, never bought the man -my jury is still out.
    Love Roy

  3. Having bought Kozelek’s two-disc “Little Drummer Boy Live” CD in 2006, I knew what to expect from the Oran Mor show. Two hours of sparse, gently finger-picked offerings from his vast back catalogue, which to me is as consistently spellbinding and evocative as any in the singer-songwriter canon

    Between songs, when not re-tuning his acoustic, he veered between distant, mocking humour (expressing his disdain for Glasgow accents, performing the first half of the set in a ‘Scream’ mask and frequently feigning its long-awaited removal for comic effect) and world-weariness (berating my friend for photographing him with his mobile phone). There was a slightly awkward frisson between his on-stage presence and the jokey, playfully boisterous shouts from the crowd, particularly as the ‘Scream’ mask remained on for perhaps too long. But the crowd’s impatient mood lifted considerably, I felt, when he eventually revealed his face.

    If Kozelek’s on-stage attitude between songs was a little erratic, there was absolutely nothing to fault, in my view, of his performances. Any performer who has the ability to reduce an audience to virtual ‘pin-drop’ silence with each song is clearly onto something special. Vocally, his rich, haunted, expressive voice was in great form, and the soft bed of his and Phil Carney’s picked guitars perfectly complemented it. High points for me were ‘Gentle Moon’, given a beautifully spare treatment, ‘Moorestown,’ an utterly moving waltz soon to feature on Sun Kil Moon’s new album and the closing ‘Brockwell Park’, which was a particularly mesmerising highlight.

    In conclusion, I’m delighted to have been given such an intimate performance by one of my musical heroes, despite his occasionally distant stage presence. I would definitely go to see him again were he to return to Glasgow. Whether this is likely or not is anyone’s guess.

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