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Live Review: Sun Kil Moon

2 June 2017 | 2:58 pm | Joel Lohman

"The Kozelek before us tonight is a warm, compelling and generous performer."

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Three backing members of Sun Kil Moon are onstage laying down a tentative, jazzy bed when Mark Kozelek emerges from the darkness. Dressed entirely in black, Kozelek cuts an imposing figure onstage as he begins sing-speaking Bombs. Kozelek's growing reputation as a bitter, cranky misanthrope has repelled many casual fans. For those of us who have stuck around, the sense of not knowing which version of the famously mercurial man we'll get is exciting.

Maybe we just got lucky, but the Kozelek before us tonight is a warm, compelling and generous performer. Despite the meandering — at times downright arduous — nature of his recent output, Kozelek retains his focus and wit onstage, within songs and between them. He routinely adds new verses to songs which already stretch past 10 or 12 minutes. Reading endless printed lyrics from a music stand, he continually waves his hand in a circular motion, like a conductor. The remarkably specific references which litter his songs make more sense in the live format, as they are updated to serve as a real-time travelogue.

After the 20-plus minute opening song, Micheline is blessedly melodic and lovely. A new song called House Cat is loose and funky but dragged down by inane lyrics. The band is joined by renowned jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin for a slightly chaotic take on Bergen To Trondheim. Kozelek calls for a female audience member to join him onstage for the next song. There is an uncomfortable moment when two candidates approach the stage and one is turned away. Despite admitting she hasn't heard the song, the remaining woman helps sing I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love and does a commendable job, particularly given the circumstances.

At long last, Kozelek reaches for a guitar to play a simple, muted part over Window Sash Weights, which is followed by a particularly powerful rendition of The Possum, and a dirty, shouty version of Dogs. After the elegiac, almost unbearably sad Exodus, the band briefly leaves the stage before returning with a few covers, including a pensive, heartfelt take on AC/DC's Rock 'N' Roll Singer. The woman who was refused entry earlier is invited up to sing I Got You Babe and good lord, is she a great singer! What could have been a train wreck is instead a gloriously redemptive moment.

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After three full hours, Kozelek and co close proceedings with the great, tender God Bless Ohio. And thus ends our evening with an erratic and sometimes frustrating, yet truly singular figure in contemporary music. God bless Ohio and its prolific, provocative prodigal son.