SOME performers need lots of bells and whistles to put on an entertaining gig.
Whether it’s over production, a fancy light show or firework displays during every song – I’m looking at you Coldplay at Glastonbury 2011 – all serve to paper over the cracks of lacklustre material.
Ohio singer Mark Kozelek was the exact opposite of that during a rather wonderful performance at the Thekla.
For one hour and 45 minutes he mesmerised a crowd that watched in awed silence so quiet you could hear every ring pull of a Red Stripe can.
Opening with a cover of Danzig’s “Thirteen”, two things quickly became apparent.
First, he’s a great guitarist, and second his voice is simply gorgeous.
Despite some early technical difficulties his lilting, haunting voice shone through, the kind of sound that can bring grown men to tears.
The easiest popular comparison is Jose Gonzalez but Kozelek is in another league altogether.
Red House Painters was always an accurate description of his first band, because for all his talent, Kozelek’s music does tend to be one colour.
Always maudlin, always fragile it could have become repetitious were it not for the occasional sardonic gag or witty lyric.
There was no better example of the back to back highlights in the middle of the set “Glen Tipton” and “Sunshine in Chicago”.
Kozelek comes from the Mark Lanegan school of loveable curmudgeons, but unlike Lanegan he actually engages with the audience, and is all the better for it.
Some unexpected banter with the audience gave some welcome relief from a set that otherwise could have been hard work.
He even performed an impromptu song about Bristol – supposedly based on his last visit two years ago – with the memorable lines “Bristol Bristol, with all the cobbled streets / Bristol Bristol with all the missing teeth”. Told you he was a charmer.