Sun Kil Moon at the Button Factory, 9th December 2014

With performances by Elton John and Van Morrison this week and an appearance by Morrissey in the 3arena last Monday, there has been no shortage of eccentric singer-songwriters performing in Dublin this December. Tuesday night saw a rather less well known but no less eccentric troubadour take to the Button Factory. Under the moniker of Sun Kil Moon, the infamously cantankerous Mark Kozelek treated a sold out crowd to a performance that was both remarkable and bizarre in equally measures.

2014 has been a great year for Sun Kil Moon/Kozelek with his latest album, ‘Benji’, released to widespread critical acclaim. The songs drawn from it sound exquisite tonight too. Micheline, delivered with a more piano based arrangement, sounds even better than on the record. The rockier numbers from the album, Dogs and Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes, also benefit from the live setting with Kozelek’s raw as sandpaper vocals giving them both an extra punk rock kick. Other highlights include Carissa, a poignant tribute to a second cousin of the same name, and the album’s magnum opus I Watched The Film The Song Remains the Same.

Performing for almost three hours Kozelek delves into his lengthy back catalogue. The material from ‘Benji’ is certainly his strongest but there are other highpoints. Caroline and By the Time That I Woke, drawn from a collaboration album with Jimmy LaValle, both impress. I Knows it’s Pathetic But That Was the Greatest Night of My Life (short song titles aren’t his thing) stands out too; the last song of the night, it’s one of the best songs he has ever written. While we unfortunately get no Red House Painters material, his previous band, we do get plenty of covers, three of which are Christmas songs. On a rising scale of quality, The Christmas Song is genuinely awful, The Little Drummer Boy is completely unnecessary and Do You Hear What I Hear is surprisingly good.

If the Christmas songs feel odd then they are only the tip of the iceberg. War On Drugs: Suck My Cock speaks for itself; a ‘diss’ that’s genuinely hilarious unless you’re a member of War On Drugs. Then there’s his cover version of I Got You Babe, nothing unusual about that except that he summons a member of the crowd to handle Cher’s vocals. To put it mildly this doesn’t go well. Fair play to Andrew though; braver than most. Not deterred Kozelek rolls the dice again and enlists another member of the crowd to play drums for the last quarter of the gig. This is a much more successful venture with the young drummer Jake keeping beat admirably for the last eight songs of the night for which Kozelek pays him €500 for his troubles (no, I’m not making this up).

As for Kozelek’s infamous temper, only once does it appear, with the singer irked by the constant coming and going of people through a door to the left of the stage. After a suitably animated rant the door stays closed and his mood picks up dramatically. Thus after almost three hours in his presence every side of Mark Kozelek’s personality had been displayed; the contrarian, the comedian but most importantly the songwriter. Because that’s what he does best. Don’t ever change, Mark.