Mark Kozelek may be a grumpy curmudgeon, but he’s our grumpy curmudgeon.
The San Francisco-based songwriter, who started his career crafting haunting slowcore ballads as part of Red House Painters, has enjoyed a resurgence of late under his pseudonym, Sun Kil Moon, due to his acclaimed 2014 release, Benji — a hyper-literal and ultra-moving portrait of middle age life.
Benji was the pick by many critics for album of the year, and Kozelek — who put out yeoman’s work for years without due recognition — rode out that wave of goodwill for…about a month. Notoriously prickly, he picked a fight with Adam Granduciel of the War on Drugs, made a couple of sexist comments and kind of retreated back to his layer of self-containment (which is a shame, since his 2015 release, Universal Themes, is a great album that’s been widely ignored, likely as a backlash to his public spats).
Kozelek’s public persona may be a bit difficult to swallow at times, but that’s who he is — a dour dude who doesn’t really care what other people think of him. That inability to put on a fake display is mirrored in his music, which is always nakedly honest. He sings about the humiliation of aging, losing friends and relatives to death (some of them in truly bizarre fashion), living life on the outer fringes of celebrity and other difficult topics of self-reflection that are usually left unsaid or unnoticed.
That candor is perfect for an intimate setting, which is what fans will get on Saturday and Sunday nights at the Great American Music Hall. Kozelek will play two “Evening With” performances — partially-seated gigs where he doesn’t have to worry about young rabble rousers making noise while he performs. Opening for him will be Neil Halstead of venerable British shoegaze rockers Slowdive, which recently enjoyed a triumphant reunion tour.
Expect some rancorous stage banter, maybe a few off-putting comments, and a night full of gorgeous, melancholy and truly-stirring music.
Sun Kil Moon, Neil Halstead
Great American Music Hall
December 12 and 13, 9 p.m. and 8 p.m.