Concert Review: Mark Kozelek, March 22, Lee’s Palace

“A cynic is just a disappointed romantic. They want the world to be different, but know it isn’t, can’t, and will never be.”
-Some guy I used to talk to in the 90’s

Since about 1996, this is what I had always imagined Mark Kozelek to be. More than anything else, his brooding ways made him the misanthropic soulful white man of mystery to me. Teenage girls love that stuff; big girls do too. The perceived vulnerability, rejection, passion, and sad sweetness. The tortured artist (a little extreme, but not by much). Prolific songwriting. Talent pure and simple (the greatest aphrodisiac on earth). Rumors of his sleazy playboy ways with female fans only fanned the flames of desire for me.

Though my love affair with the Red House Painters peaked in the 90’s, I missed several chances to see Kozelek in his various forms after I turned 19. And after finally coming to see this man live last night, a flood of nostalgia took me back to a place when music was a soaring chasm of knife-wrenching emotions. Lost mixed tapes, stalemated relationships, high highs, and low lows. One only wonders how a teenager might ever become bored with such hormonal peaks and valleys naturally occurring on an hourly basis. Listening to Rollercoaster now, the familiar ebb and flow has returned…yes, I have renewed love for this man. I might forget about him again soon, but for now he is back with a new level of fixation.

I am not sure what else to say here. I am still a little shell-shocked at what a bipolar experience the 2.5 hour set was. I felt like I was being put in a hyperbaric chamber of vicissitude followed by joy and laughter, interspersed between one of the most intimate performances I’ve ever seen in my life. Apparently the pattern of what we saw last night was not unusual. I suppose this is Mr. Kozelek’s method of bonding with his audience. Here’s how I saw the events unfolding:

  1. Commanding massive attention. When’s the last time you walked into a venue where a whisper sounded like a scream, and the sound of a cash register opening and closing was the loudest thing in the venue? No matter how we may feel about his abrasive discourse as a performer, this man owns his shows.
  2. Enduring light heckling for a couple of minutes. When are people going to figure out that yelling out requests is the lowest form of human expression at a show?
  3. Cracking some jabbing jokes. There were moments where Kozelek came off quite charming in the show–maybe even likeable, gently winning the audience over with some jokes that started off as sort of mean (at a dork’s expense), and then evolved into being downright cruel. There was a funny moment early on where he described smelling pot smoke during the set as the most dangerous thing he’d ever experienced in Canada. Then a super(loud)fan up close yelled “awesome” as soon as the first couple of chords were being strum for the next song…he stopped and said “how the fuck do you know what song I’m going to play? I don’t even know what song I’m going to play!” that loosened us all up. I have to admit I was afraid my piercing laughter might be called out for extended derision.
  4. Insults, insults, insults. When another unfortunate fan failed to learn his lesson in humiliation, he got a stern talking to. This fan proceeds to yell “What’s Steve Martin like?” to which Kozelek responds, “That’s all you have to say to me? I have like 20 albums and that’s the question you ask!??” From there, it disintegrated pretty quickly into the standard angry jokes about the guy being a nerd who’d never been laid (I suppose this is what male adult bullying is). From there, it was a slippery slope into “My record label tells me I’m not selling well in Canada. Who the hell cares about Canada?? You’re like Australia…no one cares about you.”
  5. Vicious lecture about talking at shows (hey, I can’t say I disagree there). But I have to say that even as an old lady concert matron who is this (*squinches fingers together*) close to carrying a Sophia Petrillo old lady purse, if only to suckerpunch excessive talkers with at shows, thought he took it entirely too far. His policy of no photography or cell phones (the bouncer particularly emphasized how texting would not be tolerated when he carded me) had already struck a lot of folks as being overly…hmm…arrogant? When he had another outburst with a group close to the stage talking quietly, he said “Do I have a sign that says TALK above my head? Do I look like a TV set?”, a series of gradual outbursts throughout the night following this theme persisted. I was happy when he redeemed himself by explaining how it felt to hear talking as a performer…”It’s like having sex and then a cell phone goes off – it’s like a fly buzzing around your head when you’re making love”.

I have to say, that these moments of sharpness were always contrasted by eventual salvation, humbleness, and other amazing things. Not least of which was the music, where a lone man and his acoustic guitar managed to sound like the richest orchestral arrangement in recent memory. If the Flaming Lips show last year was an illustration of collective intimacy; Mark Kozelek’s show last night was the peak of isolated intimacy. When he performed, I felt like I was the only one there listening.


  • All Mixed Up – probably my favorite performance of the night, and certainly my concert moment of the year so far
  • Mistress
  • Four Fingered Fisherman
  • Follow You Follow Me (I told you Phil Collins used to be pretty awesome)
  • Carry Me Ohio (in encore)

Setlist: Bold indicates blown away

  1. Up to My Neck in You (AC/DC cover)
  2. Glenn Tipton
  3. Third and Seneca
  4. Trucker’s Atlas (Modest Mouse cover)
  5. Tiny Cities Made of Ashes (Modest Mouse cover)
  6. New Partner (Will Oldham cover)
  7. Moorestown
  8. Natural Light (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone cover)
  9. Australian Winter
  10. Heron Blue
  11. Like the River
  12. Bay of Skulls
  13. All Mixed Up (Cars cover)
  14. Follow You, Follow Me (Genesis cover)
  15. Summer Dress
  16. Half Moon Bay
  17. Mistress
  18. Void
  19. Down Through
  20. Blue Orchids
  21. Church of Pines


  1. Four Fingered Fisherman (Modest Mouse cover)
  2. Carry Me Ohio
  3. Katy Song

I feel inspired to write classic album reviews again.

4.5 out of 5

Posted on by Allison in Concerts, Everything, Music

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