Mark Kozelek at the Cedar, 03/14/11

markkozelek2.jpg
Mark Kozelek
March 14, 2011
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis


Coming off the electro-clash insanity of the Crystal Castles show on Friday night, it was great to step into the Cedar on Monday evening and see just a chair, a microphone, and an acoustic guitar on stage awaiting Mark Kozelek. And he used just those bare essentials to keep the near-capacity crowd entertained during a nearly two-hour set that was gorgeously intoxicating. It was the first show in Kozelek's incredibly brief U.S. tour, and he was in good spirits all night, joking with the crowd as he grew more comfortable with the room, which gave his somber music a buoyancy that only grew stronger as the show went on.

After the crowd was warned beforehand not to take any photographs or text during the show, Kozelek came out and quipped, "I can't see you anyway, you can do what you want." But thankfully the crowd remained relatively respectful throughout the performance, allowing Kozelek's stirring, impassioned songs to take us all somewhere special. Kozelek eased his way into the set at first, explaining that: "I'm going to get to some more difficult songs in a bit, but it's the first time I've picked up a guitar in over three weeks. After being on tour in Europe for a month, I've had some other things to take care of." But after straightening out some nagging sound and tuning issues, Kozelek was able to put all of those demands aside and lose himself in his music just as we all were, delivering a remarkable version of "Third and Seneca" that even caused Mark himself to sigh deeply after the song was finished.

Kozelek, looking a bit like a young Johnny Cash with his untamed pompadour, is an exceptionally agile guitar player, playfully strumming his Spanish strains and flourishes amidst his wistful songs. You can get so hypnotized by his deft guitar work that you might forget to listen to his moving lyrics. And, once you begin to concentrate on the poignant story he is singing, you might lose focus on the delicate melody of the song. But let them both blend together gracefully and you see why so many people are so passionate about Kozelek's affecting songs. 

The set drew heavily on all facets of Kozelek's career, with old and new material blending smoothly with a few Red House Painters tracks, as well as covers of Modest Mouse, Will Oldham, Genesis (?!), and, in what truly was a real surprise (and easily one of the night's standouts), a stunning rendition of "Natural Light" by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. It was ultimately an all-too-brief number, but was simply gorgeous and moving.

Sound issues plagued the show just a bit, with Kozelek continually asking for his levels to be adjusted, but finally he just told the sound guy hilariously: "Can I get a little bit more reverb on my guitar and vocals, and then you can go and do some blow or something." After asking for the lights to be dimmed even further so that he was shrouded in near-darkness, Kozelek finally seemed truly comfortable, and the show really took off. "Summer Dress" was exquisite, as was a version of the Red House Painters classic "Void." But after a moving rendition of "Half Moon Bay," Kozelek explained, "Usually I play a couple more songs before the encore, but I really have to pee. So, I'll be right back."

You would think that a break like that would kill the momentum that had been building throughout the show, but Mark came right back out and launched into a lovely version of the Red House Painters track "Trailways" that was another of the night's highlights. Actually, the whole half-hour after Kozelek's break was just phenomenal, as "Glenn Tipton," the aforementioned "Natural Light," "Katy Song," and "Carry Me Ohio" were all gorgeous and deeply moving. After genuinely thanking the crowd, Kozelek reminisced a bit: "The Red House Painters actually played this room in the mid-'90s. There were more young ladies at that show, but there were a lot less people there." And with that, Kozelek closed out the night with a passionate version of "Church of the Pines," leaving the audience deeply moved. Mark Kozelek put on a lovely, soul-stirring performance that reminded all of us in attendance of the magic that can happen with just a voice and a guitar.

Critic's Bias: I truly love Kozelek's recorded work, but this was the best live show I've ever seen him put on. 

The Crowd: A nearly full house filled with both die-hard fans and new converts.

Overheard In The Crowd: Thankfully not that much, other than playful banter between the crowd and Kozelek.

Random Notebook Dump: One of the songs from the set made my friend cry. I won't tell you what song, and I won't tell you which friend.

Setlist:

Heron Blue

Up to My Neck in You

Tiny Cities Made of Ashes (Modest Mouse)

New Partner (Will Oldham)

Third and Seneca

Blue Orchids

Australian Winter

Moorestown

Like the River

Summer Dress

Follow You, Follow Me (Genesis)

Void

Half Moon Bay

Trailways (Encore)

Glenn Tipton (Encore)

Natural Light (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone)(Encore)

Katy Song (Encore)

Carry Me Ohio (Encore)

Church of the Pines (Encore)


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18 comments
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MarkKoz78
MarkKoz78

After having read all of these comments, I'm getting the feeling that it was most people's first time at a Mark Kozelek show. I've seen him a couple dozen times over the years and not once did he ever come off as anything other than a miserable bastard. And I love it.

I don't know if the irritable banter is part of his schtick or it's just who he is, but he's been that way every single time I've seen him in the last 15 years. The guy has very few social graces, he may in fact have a diagnosable social anxiety disorder, or he may be clinically depressed. Neither of those diagnoses would surprise me.

That said, if I went to a Mark K show and he was nice and polite I would feel let down at this point. I go looking forward to the acerbic commentary as well as the luscious guitar playing and singing.

Douchebagmark
Douchebagmark

some people are better on the ipod. came in to this show loving the music, left thinking, this guy is a dick. horrible sound unless you like being in a tunnel. i've seen dozens of shows at the cedar and this one was the worst by a mile. got the feeling he was annoyed to be there. ended up leaving 20 sec into the post pee-break song.

grade a douche.

znthomps
znthomps

I thought it was an absolutely beautiful concert. I have seen Mark in concert twice before, and this time he seemed in a better mood than the other times. He was definitely frustrated by some of the sound issues...which makes me wonder what his mix sounded like. I thought he sounded great out in the seats. I also think, as he acknowledged during the show, that he is simply not good at chatting with the audience. He seemed most nervous, when trying to fill the silence. Personally, I would rather have a killer musical performance (which he certainly provided), instead of a ton of filler in between songs. Heron Blue was incredible, and Third and Seneca and Church of the Pines were sublime. If he's back in town in the future, I will definitely be there. To hear his music...not critique his personality or monologue.

Brandon543088
Brandon543088

I'm pretty much fully agree with the person who wrote this article. I think after reading other reviews of other shows recently. I could tell for the most part that he wanted to be there. He was interacting with the audience and as far as the sound issues. I recall mark stating how we had it at sound check was great. so that obviously should not be put on mark but the sound guy. Mark isnt out to be mean hes just making some fun humor. Guess some people took it personally. I thought the show was great. He isn't much of interacting with fans before or after the show. But I can understand why. I would deffinitly see him again if he plays anywhere near hear you can know that i will be there. I would have liked to heard certain songs. But I loved his set and he put amazing effort into it. It was worth more then what I paid in my opinion. One thing that stood out was that he may have skipped a verse or so in glenn tipton. But I could care less. And people who take him for whining are obiously taking it the wrong way. Hes just wants to connect with the audience probably cause he feels like his just up there playing songs and feels like he should say something. I think he really cares about his performances. I Hope he has a great rest of his tour. His performance was profound and emotionally touching. Heron Blue was hauntingly beautiful. I am so glad I got to see this show. I've been listening to him since I was 16 now 18 and am the proud owner of 18 cds of his.

Stunned
Stunned

Apparently the Cedar's reverb dial doesn't go to 11. Wish someone would have told Mark. Wow what a dissappointing concert, guess I am spoiled by the banter of David Wilcox, Bruce Cockburn, or Greg Brown. Apparently the critic was not seated near me. The last few rows cleared out while Mark stepped off stage, because as a few mumbled "he probably won't be back...".

Great guitar work, good vocals drowned by self doubt and reverb, and a constant uneasy negativity that really made this concert hard to take at times.

Lewis Medlock-Rated R
Lewis Medlock-Rated R

"It was the first show in Kozelek's incredibly brief U.S. tour, and he was in good spirits all night"wow.

john
john

Wow, he sounds like a world-class a-hole

Lewis Medlock-Rated R
Lewis Medlock-Rated R

"The Red House Painters actually played this room in the mid-90s. There were more young ladies at that show, but there were a lot less people there." **it was actually the 7th street entry, but the floor probably looks about the same. plus the lights were off. which is fine...guess you had to be there**

also: Mark was like a whiny Ryan Adams from 15 years in the future on a massive bolus of propofol.

Mensch Maschine
Mensch Maschine

I saw a show with the Red House Painters & His Name is Alive at the Cedar in 1996. It was pretty sparsely populated (I can't compare or contrast the collective hotness, because I didn't make it to last night's show). I was also at one of the RHP shows at the 7th St. Entry. At one point during the show, he stared at me and started rattling off his favorite types of beef jerky.

Lewis Medlock-Rated R
Lewis Medlock-Rated R

i too was at the RHP show at the entry. I want the record to show that hes a great songwriter and I was impressed with his playing. He was just so bummed out about his job. Its like going to a great restaurant and getting an earful about how much it sucks to work there by the wait staff.

Erik Thompson
Erik Thompson

The way I took his discussion of what happened in Japan, and his mother's subsequent concern, was that he was safe in San Francisco, why should she be so concerned about him when the real tragedy happened half a world away? I don't think he was intentionally being disrespectful of the loss in Japan at all.

His "humor" is admittedly a bit of an acquired taste, but I didn't find him to be contemptible of his audience at all. He was frequently asking us how we were doing, interacting sportively with the crowd, etc...

But that's the beauty of live performance--it can affect all of us in decidedly different ways.

formerkozelekfan
formerkozelekfan

I don't think he was intentionally dissing the affected people in Japan either. It was actually pretty obvious that he didn't even _know_ about them. I don't need my performers to be 100% up to speed on world events, I will grant you that. But it seemed to me and my fellow concertgoers that he was really going out of his way to be a prick. He wanted to let us know that he was barely interested in performing for us, as though somebody was forcing him to do it and he was going to oblige only because he had no choice.

I hope he reads this and gets some kind of a clue about how his concertgoers, fans, consumers of his "craft" subsidize his lifestyle. Not so he can apologize to us all (honestly, he did no harm) but so he can maybe start feeling decent about his lot in life. Because really it's pretty awesome that he plays so well and sings so well and writes such fantastic songs. But: watching him last night, I sensed that he views his gifts and his audience as some kind of barely tolerable burden.

ANyhoo, suit yourself, keep showing up for his gigs. I've seen enough of him for one lifetime. If the CP reviewer is right and this was one of his best gigs anyway, there's no sense bothering to go back for more, right?

formerkozelekfan
formerkozelekfan

Dear critic: you forgot to mention how Kozelek griped about the "fuckin' typhoon [sic]" that "hit Japan" and how he was put off by his mother's concerned call to him before he left the Bay Area the other day. He seemed blissfully unaware of the 10k dead people in Japan from the earthquake/tsunami.

The audience went too easy on this prick. He should have been booed offstage for his frequent ungracious remarks. He clearly felt a contempt for his audience last night. It wasn't playful, it was scornful.

newkozelekfan
newkozelekfan

What makes you think that Kozelek had contempt for his audience last night? I get the feeling he's like this all the time, not just last night. I admired his honestly and ability to do away with the show business of performing a "concert". I don't have to like him as a person, or even understand him, to enjoy his music.

Lewis Medlock-Rated R
Lewis Medlock-Rated R

1. Personally told off the City Pages photographer who was assigned to cover his show that he couldnt take pictures (before you arrived). Then had the head volunteer at this community center type place he was... playing come out and lecture everyone about not taking pics or recording . fine. thats cool! Live in the moment! (yes!)2. THen ambled out and had a lil diatribe about how people texting annoy the shit out of him (yeah! preach it!) because "its hard for him to be inspired" when people are doing it. fair enough!**then proceeds to stare at his shoes and insult the audience for two hours** I could have watched a season of "house" on the Netfilx ap and he would never have known!3. Kept complaining about how much/not enough reverb he had on his vocals and separately on his guitar in every possilbe permutation. anyone good at math? It was a lot.4. then bawled out the (probably volunteer) sound guy for doing what he instructed and turning up the reverb so high on his vocal mic that his guitar became a garbled mess. Told him to go "fuckin do a line of coke or smoke a joint or whatever it is that you do!" Nervous clapping from the audience.5. some over eager fan clapped thinking he recognized a song...so Mark stops and calls the guy a "geek" and humiliates him and then says "theres no way you know what song this is"6. unbuttons his pants, complains that all his friends are lame and have kids and have gray hair, while he is still ravishingly handsome.7. complains that his hands are sore because he is really sick of playing guitar. hes been doing it since he was 9 he informs us.8. whines about the two anenemic spotlights (60 watt) being too bright. so they turn them down so that it is nearly total darkness. hilariously dark.10. remarks that the women at his shows used to be hotter, younger and less fat. then sings another over the top sappy sensitive song of love lost.11. does a cover of an old genesis song. COOL! (not a transgression)12. complains that minneapolis is dead and totally is lame because he went to a restaurant SUnday night and it was sparsely populated.13.BEST PART OF THE SHOW: rambles about how his mom called to check on him because of "THE TYPHOON OVER THERE" and ridicules her for over worrying. talks about how that typhoon or what ever was so over blown and that he took a walk on the beach after the phone call to prove how totally fine it was.NPR tote bag carrying subaru forrester driving fan base is now beginning to panic.14. abruptly stops show, informs us that he will be back to play a few more songs but it sick of the ritual involved with encores and says he has to go to the bathroom.15. comes back, does some more songs. gets standing o.oops: He also backhandedly complimented the audience by saying we were "some really well behaved white people." Normally he plays to rowdy ethnically diverse crowds?

it seemed like a real chore for Mark.

Pete
Pete

It was my first time seeing Mark perform live. I had the highest hopes and it seemed to be coming for me when I saw just the guitar and microphone on stage. I won't complain about the excessive reverb he came out with, that's up to him, but the sound was pretty terrible throughout the night. He was frustrated for the first hour, and seemed like he didn't care any longer during the second.

It seemed like he came out in a good mood, too, and he seemed to be doing his best to stay cool when frustrated with the terrible sound and help he was getting. Though I think his requests were hurting his sound.

His chat was honest and I didn't mind it at all. Think it showed that he was generally in a good mood and endearing. His own way.

Lewis Medlock-Rated R
Lewis Medlock-Rated R

Im glad i wasnt the sound guy. THe reverb is too much on my guitar but not enough on my vocal. then vice versa, then his vocal mic started picking up his guitar. Ultimately I was amused by his douchebaggery, and then went on to read myriad other similar descriptions of this contempt for his fans.

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