Sun Kil Moon – Tuning Fork May 28, 2017

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Sun Kil Moon put on an extraordinary show last night at Auckland’s Tuning Fork. The gig included a special guest, a tribute to a fallen rocker, a previously unheard song and a performance that was as much stand-up comedy as rock and roll.

Sun Kil Moon is the current musical vehicle for former Red House Painter Mark Kozelek and recent Sun Kil Moon albums such as 2014’s Benji and 2015’s Universal Themes are notable for their long, rambling stream-of-consciousness lyrics based on Kozelek’s life, both past and present.

There was no opening act and, as fans noticed as they filled up The Tuning Fork, there were posters on display warning against the use of any phones, cameras or other recording devices.

Fortunately, everyone followed the rules set down by the artist…Kozelek has had his fair share of confrontations with disobedient fans.

This was Sun Kil Moon’s first show of the year and the first since the release of their latest album, Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood, which was released in February. And even more recently there is another new album in conjunction with Jesu (Birmingham-based musician Justin Broadrick) so this was the first live airing for most of these songs.

It was also the first show with bass player Tony Shearer who joined keyboard player Chris Connolly and drummer Scott McPherson to fill out the band.

There were other firsts to come…

The band shuffled on stage just after 8pm with Kozelek clutching the hand held mic like a stand-up comic.

“It’s great to be back in Australia!”.

Ok, maybe this is going to be a comedy show.

That idea became more possible as Kozelek introduced the first song…Bombs, from 30 Seconds To The Decline Of Planet Earth…or as he retitled it for tonight…David Tua Plays The Ukulele.

The song went on for a good 15 minutes with lyrics that that wandered from political rantings to comments on terrorism to…David Tua playing the ukulele… all in a half-sung, half-spoken delivery that is part beat poetry, part punk diatribe.

“It’s good to be in Brisbane!” Mark exclaimed, keeping the running joke alive before turning serious with another first…a version of The Allman Brothers Band’s Sweet Melissa in honour of Gregg Allman who had died earlier in the day.

It was clear that Kozelek and the band had just worked up this version, but it came together beautifully.

I should mention that Kozelek had a music stand full of his lyrics that he read from during just about every song. He did mention that he hoped to do away with them when he got to the “big “show in Melbourne.

Kozelek established a comfortable rapport with the audience that threatened to get out of hand just once…during a lull between songs fans began shouting out for their favourites, the most vocal request being for Philadelphia Cop. Fortunately Mark was in a good mood and used the interruptions for more comedy material.

Kozelek loves to mix the humour with the tragic…he dedicated Bergen To Trondheim to the victims of the terrorist attack in Manchester.

Then next came another first…Neil Finn was invited on stage to join in on a couple of songs. He played an elegantly subdued electric guitar during a 17 minute version of Beautiful You and traded verses with Kozelek during a moving  I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love.

This was followed by a trio of highlights…Window Sash Weights (from Common As Light) followed by The Possum and Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes.

More than two hours into the set and it was time for one more first…a brand new song, as yet untitled in which Kozelek sings from the perspective of a “big ol’ fat lazy housecat” and comments on Donald Trumps’ tweet and Russian hacks.

This was clearly a work in progress and the band had difficulty getting it started, but once they did they were off and running with Tony Shearer grinning widely as he laid down the lumbering bass line.

Having been on stage for 2 hours and 20 minutes, they left the stage, but returned for one more. Kozelek offered up four options before settling on “a nice positive one”, Hello Chicago, from 30 Seconds.

It was a long, somewhat exhausting night, but Mark Kozelek proved to be a formidable live performer who can hold an audience’s undivided attention for longer than I imagine they thought possible.

Marty Duda

Sun Kil Moon set list:

  1. Bombs (David Tua Plays The Ukulele)
  2. Sweet Melissa
  3. Chili Lemon Peanuts
  4. Early June Blues
  5. I Love You Forever And Beyond Eternity
  6. Astronomy
  7. Bergen To Trondheim
  8. Beautiful You
  9. I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love
  10. Window Sash Weights
  11. The Possum
  12. Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes
  13. New Song – Untitled
  14. Hello Chicago