Mark Kozelek @ Lincoln Hall, 10/1/12
There is something haunting about Mark Kozelek on stage. No costume, makeup, crazy lights… even other instruments. It was simply a man and his guitar. Lincoln Hall may have been the perfect venue for this quiet series of ballads. Anything more personal would’ve been the man performing in your living room. His presence calls for small, intimate spaces. His songs need minds willing to go to darker places and that is where a chilly Monday evening found me, surrounded by the new generation of Blue Demons, Chicagoans, the college whatnots sipping white wine (or even better, a microbrews) waiting for a man with a career the length of their lives, maybe longer, to lull them into an experience they could update their statuses with later. Even Mr. Kozelek himself called out some nameless front rowee for having his phone out right before the music began.
At first, I thought this songwriter a bit of a cranky old man. First he asked repeatedly for his jacket, as the venue was too chilly. Then the phone bit. He even harassed the entire front row on their lack of feminine presence. Kozelek explains his audience used to be more of the latter in his younger days. And this banter was between crazy beautiful songs like the marvelous “Missed My Heart” or from the Sun Kil Moon days, “That Bird has a Broken Wing” and “Carry Me, Ohio.” It was a stark contrast the audience picked up on, nervous laughter and some hoots and hollers merely answered back… It felt like some disconnect. Mark Kozelek wanted to share something with us, and we wanted to share something with him, but those ends never truly entwined.
This is not to say the show was without heart. From the first plucked string, Kozelek hit each song with the tried, but true effort of a father singing mysterious lullabies. Those sparse and wavering melodies paired with dark, poetic lyrics that have kept this talent on the music radar for twenty years. What I truly loved about his performance was his stillness. He remained on his seat, with guitar, but from this lack of movement poured so much music. The first two tracks, though long and winding, were perfect examples of how going to see Mark Kozelek doesn’t necessarily have to involve sight. I actually closed my eyes to simply lean against a wall and take it in. Sounds a bit dramatic, but often concerts are about the movement, the bodies jumping, your eyes taking it all in as some singer or guitarist or someone careens across stage, sweating. This was not sweat or heat or shoving, but a cool stream of music to take in all you could. There is something old, even ancient about Kozelek in concert. Not fading, but misplaced, perhaps the audience was not there yet, had not seen enough or felt enough to be on his level. He was appreciative for our lent ears and eyes, but the disconnect was felt, at least by this writer.
Overall, the concert was an intimate one. A crowd gathered to hear Mark Kozelek and he performed. Though perhaps, in some other world or another time would’ve connected better to him, up there alone seemingly singing his lovely lullabies to no one and everyone at once.