Mark Kozelek has stood accused of a great many things in recent times, but failure to deliver value for money is not amongst them. Tonight’s show at the Royal Northern College of Music – his second in a year, albeit in a different room – runs just shy of three hours and 15 minutes, despite his claims to have barely scraped through the previous evening’s similarly epic Birmingham date on account of food poisoning that had him lying on the stage floor at points.
He’s been out on this particular European jaunt backed by a bare-bones band including Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on drums and Slowdive’s Neil Halstead on guitar, and tonight’s setlist leans heavily on his recent, more forthright work. A clutch of tracks from 2014’s Benji, possibly his career highlight to date, make the cut, although there's only one cut from last year’s more polarising Universal Themes. At the show’s midpoint, Kozelek brings out Jesu’s Justin Broadrick on guitar, with the two playing a slew of material from January’s collaborative LP.
That raft includes America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek and John Dillinger, the lyrics to which include the content of a letter of appreciation written to Kozelek after last year’s RNCM gig by ‘Tanya from Sheffield’. He wryly observes that half of the royalties have been kept back for her, although she’s yet to be in touch – Kozelek’s acerbic wit is a feature of inter-song interaction with the audience.
New, unreleased tracks about recent atrocities and the passing of Muhammad Ali sound like clanging missteps waiting to happen, but another new effort (apparently earnestly entitled I Love Portugal) fares better. Many of his most ardent supporters would suggest that his lack of self-editing is part of his charm, but this set could have done with the fat trimming – Broadrick, it seems, has failed to rein him in.