Sun Kil Moon – Manchester Royal Northern College of Music


July feels like such a long time ago, yet here I am recounting a few scraps about the Sun Kil Moon show which took place at the Manchester Royal Northern College of Music. For some reason I just can’t let past shows lie, they need to be archived somehow, somewhere. So here it is, Sun Kil Moon, no support, from a few months ago. 

I was travelling to the show with my partner at the time, my partner still. She never chose to listen to the likes of Sun Kil Moon through personal choice, though she noted that the Red House Painter records I played had a certain something about them and Mark Kozelek Sings Favourites became a summertime favourite for the both of us. Of course we had to go.

That was great for me, though the anticipation was dunked into a pit of mud once she started Googling the man behind the music after watching the art house documentary ‘Tarnation’, as Red House Painters featured heavily on the soundtrack, and for some reason we gossiped about Mark and his friendship with Slowdive singer Rachel Goswell, because gossip is what people do to pass the time. She learnt of all the controversies, and her enthusiasm waned instantly. What controversies? You know the ones.

So we arrived at the venue and I sat nervously as she picked at a pot of jelly sweets. I’d have picked at them too, but I had been swearing off sugar, it was mixing too thickly with my anxieties, and that’s the hardest weight to shift. Besides, you only got a handful of jelly sweets in a carton. Not everything is for sharing.

So we sat down for the show, the first time we’d sat down for a show since Henry Rollins came to town to tell us all his anecdotes and current political thoughts, and man, I think a sore ass is worse than a set of sore legs.

Sun Kil Moon started promptly, or as promptly as possible for a band, and Mark Kozelek awkwardly walked up and down in the darkness singing his first song. She said perhaps he was on edge, unhinged, living off all those stories that had been read, but of course it was just a series of early show nerves, for he quickly warmed up and started talking to us all.

Asking how we were, mentioning how he spent the Birmingham show led on the floor from a stinking stomach bug. Engaging must have been his way of unwinding, letting us into it all. He had a ‘hey, I’m an asshole, you’re an asshole’ way of talking, and it was funny, it was self-deprecating, it wasn’t all that offensive really. He brought up the controversies now and then, used them to put himself down, bring us all up.

As a band front man, he was one of the better I’d seen. Even my partner had warmed to him, even if she couldn’t deal with the highly personal sexual content in some of his songs. Maybe Sings Favourites wasn’t all I should have shared. But he sung one of those, ‘Somethin’ Stupid’,  which was real swell.

He brought out Jesu and they played their new material, he brought out a guy called Nick from a local Manchester band called Parade and they performed a humorous duet of the song ‘I Got You, Babe’ , and he even accepted a fan request, partly playing ‘Gustavo’ before calling it quits. Too Kozelek, the song was too much like an ex. So he said screw it to us all and played a song about his mum, ‘I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love.’ There was even a slew of new songs still being worked out for the next album. Months later and I’m still singing the chorus to ‘I Love Portugal’ to myself. Just keep going ‘I Love Portugal’ with a certain sense of rhythm. You got it, now keep doing it!

There was a certain homeliness about the show, perhaps from the lighting, perhaps from the ever beautiful folk rock sound, or maybe it was the idea of Kozelek trying to discuss boxing with the audience, or telling the story about how a letter from a Manchester fan made it into one of his songs providing a sense of connection between us and them. Whatever it was, it sure was homely. It’s the personal side the band provides, that’s what it is.

Though the online press also brought another type of fan to the show. There was one guy, just one guy, who pretty much had a reply to every question Kozelek provided, and boy was he an annoying jerk. It was clear he was pushing for a reaction, for his replies weren’t exactly all that kind. When he said the crowd were half asleep from the music, this was what provided the reaction he wanted.

‘I don’t like you.’ That’s what Kozelek replied, and so if someone was willing to provide some spin on the situation, you could have read an article online about how Kozelek tells a fan that he dislikes them. Isn’t it so easy to take a few seconds and make it into something else?

Thankfully this was enough to send the heckler on his way, and Kozelek had the best response after a few more songs. ‘It’s a Sun Kil Moon concert, what do you expect?’

What do we expect?

I guess we expect to hear the songs packed with emotion played out with emotion, and that’s what we got. ‘Exodus’ a song about bereavement packed the biggest punch of them all, I think I might have cried. She did.

All the anxiety about what could have been said and what could have happened at the show ended up being a huge waste of energy. The show showed that the recent albums narrative diary like lyrics were as true as can be, and I treated myself to a ‘All you fucking hillbillies shut the fuck up’ t-shirt from the merchandise table. I mean, why not?

And as we left the college for home, my partner gave me her opinion of the show. ‘I enjoyed it, and he seemed pretty nice, even if he is a little bit sexist.’ Or something like that anyway, I was a little too sleepy from the show to remember her exact words. What do you expect?


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