Sun Kil Moon’s Benji was released earlier this year to a fanfare of acclaim. It proved yet again how frontman Mark Kozelek can muster as much, if not more, raw emotional power from plaintively plucking notes on his acoustic guitar than a band backed by an entire symphony. It was a record shot through with a sense of strong fragility and lasting mortality, all carried by Kozelek’s sparing instrumentation and modern-day Ecclesiastes lyrics. It should come as no surprise this material sounds wonderful live too.
Live at Biko may be proof that Kozelek enjoys putting out as much material as he can in a given year, but it doesn’t come off as redundant. For anyone who missed Kozelek touring behind Benji, this album should come as a welcome treat.
It’s the rare live album which makes you regret not being there while also sounding intimate enough for you to transplant yourself into the darklit room in which Kozelek strummed these songs. Sure, it’s not the same as being there, but it feels pretty close.This isn’t Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band here. Kozelek is a soft-spoken troubadour, and so the live experience he generates is more transferable. If you see him live, you’d feel like you were the only person in the room anyway.
Above all else, Live at Biko is a reminder that Kozelek’s odes to loneliness and human brokenness are something he wants to share with the rest of us. It’s as communal as a set of campfire songs, complete with humor, screw-ups and familiarity.