cat_reviews

A Moveable Feast of Earnest Sadness

October 1st, 2012

Mark Kozelek – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 29, 2012


Mark Kozelek has already written this review. Without being overly meta, this is to say that he is both in on the joke and knows everything you might say or write about him. We all know this even without listening to his most recent thesis statement, “Sunshine in Chicago,” a song about being a musician getting older who used to play in a sort of famous band and is now a sort of famous solo artist, with all the niceties aside. The singer, alone onstage at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday, referenced exactly this notion while telling a protracted story about an incident from the previous evening in Philadelphia: 45-year-old Kozelek had made a broken pass at the 23-year old daughter of a fan, 58, who had invited the singer out to dinner with the family. Kozelek asked the daughter to dinner instead, and the father was incensed. “I don’t play Christian Rock,” said Kozelek. “My music is about death, depression, trying to get laid and not getting laid.”

There were chairs in the venue, and the lights came nearly all the way down as the singer took the stage amidst a reverent hush. Kozelek, dressed in a dark dress shirt and jeans, sat alone with his guitar, two bottles of water and a Becks that he would accidentally spill (and might have been nonalcoholic if the basement bartender can be believed on these sorts of vagaries). “One of the few pleasures I have,” Kozelek offered as maybe nonalcoholic Becks foamed from the neck of the salvaged bottle. He opened with Modest Mouse’s “Four Fingered Fisherman,” with the lyric “It doesn’t matter anyway”—spilled beer, not getting laid, sitting in chairs at a rock venue were all forgivable mistakes. He followed this with an original, “Moorestown,” which you could argue is the best song ever written about New Jersey by someone other than Bruce Springsteen. Kozelek settled in and girded himself for a set that was to be as long as a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, obliterating the audience in his quiet way on the night’s fourth offering, “Missed My Heart.”

Kozelek had not arrived here to save anyone, but the audience already knew this. On “Elaine,” a tune from his most recent record, Kozelek murmured, “Wish I could help you with your problems, but, babe, I’ve got enough of my own.” It is true for his audience, too, as he encouraged two fans to box after they yelled rival song titles from the wings. He may as well have tried to fuck their daughters. Everyone seemed to grasp this completely. Kozelek closed with “Cruiser,” a favorite, but the night was better summed up by his “UK Blues,” a song about being miserable on a European tour, with each new place, Finland, Denmark, London, Belfast, featured in the chorus. “Belfast, Belfast,” sang Kozelek, but it could have been “Brooklyn, Brooklyn,” just another stop on the singer’s moveable feast of earnest sadness. These are things everyone already knew but came to see anyway. Kozelek didn’t play “Sunshine in Chicago,” partly because he didn’t need to. —Geoff Nelson