Mark Kozelek, Bowery Ballroom, 5.24.06
by Charlotte Deaver
Mark Kozelek's last CD, Tiny Cities, was released as a Sun Kil Moon effort, but for marketing purposes only: a Sun Kil Moon title, apparently, sells better than one by Mark Kozelek. The tour, however, was billed as a solo act, with Red House Painters' guitarist Phil Carney as Mark's only accompaniment at the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday night.
Playing solo here about a year ago, Mark was a pill. Never one to pull out the charm, he kvetched and moaned all night before practically stalking off stage abruptly. I had been blown away by the Ghosts of the Great Highway tour, which included several guitarists and strings and such, but solo, he disappointed, especially because of how easily annoyed and sour he could become. Ultimately a solo show by Mark Kozelek is still worth it, for any number of brilliant versions of songs he might play. And besides, as I've written elsewhere on this site, his brooding darkness is a major part of his appeal.
Wednesday night, however, Mark had no problem making music and enjoying himself. The audience was still, rapt. We were in his pocket from his first stride on stage, and we stayed right with him the entire set, which lasted about an hour and forty-five minutes.
I love the way Mark Kozelek finds his way into a song, like he's underwater, making his way to the surface, groping for light and air through the murky bottom of a river. With his eyes closed (always), he'll start a piece by singing a few opening notes, way back from the mic, like a test. Is my voice there? Have we repeated the intro chords for long enough? Are we feeling this song and this music enough yet to drive it home?
Finally, the answer is "yes." And the music is on.
No pictures, as I lost my camera last week, and also know that Mark hates pictures, even without flash. Having parked myself right at the center of the stage wall, I was able to scribble down the set list by using the monitors as a desk:
1. Michigan - unrecognizable as such until the first vocal and lyric.
2. Trucker's Atlas
3. Tiny Cities
4. Down Colorful Hill
5. Make Like Paper -- he warned us that we'd be blown away by this one, and he was right.
6. Glenn Tipton
8. Salvador Sanchez
9. Convenient Parking
10. Duk Koo Kim
11. Jesus Christ Was An Only Child
12. Carry My Ohio
The two encores were mysteries to me and the surrounding listeners I asked, the lyrics of which included something about salt water taffy and the Jersey Shore, and also a window that looked out onto Church Street. Mention was made of Williamsburg (where, Mark noted, one is not allowed to enter over the age of twenty-five. He's just figuring that out, I guess because, as he announced, he doesn't have a myspace site, he doesn't drink, and he doesn't do drugs). Lyrics to the second encore included the lines: "breathe, my love, wake my love . . . we spread her around."
I remember thinking last time that it would be great if Mark could feed a little more off the love he gets from his audience, and not insist on being so pissy. Sure, he can be however he wants and we'll still show up at his performances and buy his CDs and appreciate his irascible qualities. But why not show up for the love, too? I think he left the stage a little happier this time, and I know I and many others left the club equally charged.