On an unusually hot evening in Birmingham, Mark Kozelek (under the Sun Kil Moon title) played in the second city for the first time since the early ‘90s.

This was something Kozelek actually discussed a few times during his set, remarking how “beautiful” a city Birmingham had become since the last time he had visited. This highlights how honest a performer Kozelek is, rather than dishing out generic compliments how amazing the city he is currently in is, he talked about its improvements in detail, with a train station that was once a bleak habitat of non-character now a near-paradise with Vietnamese food outlets and a far more pleasant atmosphere. Another key improvement on show – Kozelek himself, pardon the cliché of all clichés but the man is fine wine personified – at his best now in his middle age, nearing fifty, another fact frequented by Kozelek during the show, speaking out about his middle-aged man body and how he’d much prefer to be trim like Justin Broadrick of Jesu who accompanied Kozelek and his band for the majority of the set.

Mark Kozelek always gives you so much to talk about. Whether its his in-between-song stories that range from informative to wise to melancholy, always delivered in his familiar baritone – or the brilliance of the performance itself that saw Kozelek expressively execute with on-surface ease despite the fact that he wasn’t feeling too well. But, he confided that as Mike Tyson was once told; “when you’re a professional, you give it your all no matter how good or bad you feel” – Kozelek is a pretty big boxing fan, and that was fairly paraphrased.

No support act was required, just Mark Kozelek, his band, and a hell of a lot of intimacy.

The set itself opened with ‘Somehow the Wonder of Life Prevails’ from Kozelek’s collaborative album with Jimmy LaVille. You could see that even with a lack of energy, Kozelek was still putting his all into his performances – he is known for his incredibly personal, non-subtle lyricism, and you could tell that he felt every word that he sung. While sometimes known for behaviour both on and off stage that could be described as ‘unfriendly’, Kozelek had a lot of fun with the Birmingham audience, making the Glee Club attendees crack up with stories, and with his animated performance of ‘Something Stupid’ as the second song – a cover that you can hear on his most recent release, ‘Mark Kozelek Sings Favourites’.

Following were a number of crowd-pleasing songs from 2014’s ‘Benji’ and 2015’s ‘Universal Themes’, including ‘I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love’ and ‘Dogs’ from the former, and ‘Birds of Films’ and ‘The Possum’ from the latter. ‘The Possum’ was incredibly intense, with a massive crescendo section that had the entire audience in awe. A good few songs from Sun Kil Moon’s collaborative album with Jesu were also played, appropriate with Broadrick joining the band on stage. Included from said album were ‘America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek and John Dillinger’ and ‘Exodus’.

Kozelek and friends also played a few new, unheard songs, including a typical Sun Kil Moon ballad about Kozelek’s love for Portugal. And another lengthy one about how great a necessity worldwide gun control is – but it would be an insult to describe the song as ‘political’, it was incredibly personal, with Kozelek stating before the song “I don’t know what to do about it except write songs”. Deeply moving. The song was called ‘Me We’ – adapted from the shortest poem ever written, the author being Muhammad Ali.

The Sun Kil Moon live band were great, and keyboardist Chris Connelly was as into it as anyone, with wide-eyed facial expressions that let the audience know how soulful his playing was. Nick Zubeck shone with a fine performance on his six-string bass and backing vocals, Steve Shelley jumped from light drumming to boisterous skin-pummelling with ease, and Justin Broadrick’s guitar contribution was a thing of pure, emotive beauty – also, he drove from Wales just to be there, even more admirable!

Suffice to say, fans old and new were very pleased with Mark Kozelek’s first Birmingham show in decades – they laughed, they were moved, and Kozelek didn’t even have to call anyone an asshole. Beautiful.

This Sun Kil Moon article was written by Ben Malkin, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson. Photo credit : nictalgia – fallimentiquotidiani.tumblr.com

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