Live Review: Mark Kozelek; Elvis Costello, Larkin Poe tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:09 pm October 4, 2016
Mark Kozelek at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 3, 2016.

Mark Kozelek at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 3, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Mark Kozelek and his keyboard player, Ben, walked onto the Slowdown Jr. stage a little after 9 last night and didn’t leave for two and a half hours. In that time, they ran through a set list of Sun Kil Moon songs that included a few off Benji (“Richard Ramirez…” “Micheline” and “Dogs”), Universal Themes (“The Possum,” “This Is My First Day…”) and the just-released Jesu/Sun Kil Moon album (“Fragile,” “Exodus”) as well as a few new ones (“He’s Bad,” a song about Michael Jackson with the chorus “He’s Bad / And he’s dead / And I’m glad“), a cover of “Send in the Clowns” and a few I didn’t recognize, including a set intro and a set outro wherein Kozelek talked about never having been to Omaha before, his lunch at The Blatt (where his waiter called him “Boss” repeatedly), and seeing Conor Oberst play at The Forum when he was this tall (and who Kozelek will be opening for in a one-off show in a few weeks).

Kozelek only played guitar on a couple songs (including “Richard Ramirez…”).Most of the time he stood on the front of the stage with his microphone or sat next to Ben, directing the beat with his free hand in a solemn wave. At times, especially on new songs, he referred to lyrics written in a binder. This was the first of three shows with this new keyboard player and Kozelek warned there would be some rough edges, and there were, but they only added to the charm of the set.

I’ve read he can be nasty to his audience, but he was nothing but kind and funny last night, laughing often and mostly at himself. The laughter countered the hard-reality lyrics that dealt with death and murder and getting older and memories of loved ones gone… depressing lyrics mostly sung but sometimes spoken as keyboardist Ben tickled his Roland and controlled a thick, dark beat.

I think Benji is Kozelek’s masterpiece, and he acknowledged that the album is what most new audiences know him from, saying Red House Painters (his first band) was so long ago. The Benji songs, which came out in 2014, indeed stood out next to the newer material that at times seemed like stream-of-conscious poetry. The moments when Kozelek used that angelic voice of his and reached beyond his slow, guttural, spoken delivery were when he raised the night to the next level.

There’s not much more to say. The crowd of around 60 were seated at tables throughout the club and a few yards away from the stage. Kozelek asked people to come closer all night, and eventually they scooched their chairs forward toward the stage. It was a quiet, intimate performance that kept the audience rapt and silent.

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Another master story-teller songwriter performs tonight, this time at the Holland Performing Arts Center. It’s a solo performance by Elvis Costello. Based on the set list from Saturday’s show at Town Hall in NYC (which you can read here) this could be a greatest hits collection — played with piano and guitar — that spans to his first album. Opening is Larkin Poe, who I wrote about yesterday. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show range from $46 to $126.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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