Mark Kozelek Lee's Palace, Toronto ON March 22

Mark Kozelek Lee's Palace, Toronto ON March 22
There was gentle yet tangible air of excitement for Mark Kozelek in the packed Lee's Palace. The eclectic crowd varied considerably in age and appearance, a testament of Kozelek's long and productive career that ages ago shed the genre limitations normally applied to artists of his ilk. His work with the Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, as well as his solo output, has captured the hearts of listeners across the board. It's impressive, and so was his sting-like ability to heckle his own crowd before they could doll out any verbal hurt.

The songwriter's soft, tender and sensual music sharply contrasted his between-song banter that saw him use many opportunities to roast his Toronto patrons. Most of his observations were hilarious but a couple of them, not so much. "I'm not a TV set," he told sorry souls in the front who dared chatter while he tuned his guitar. Later, he asked if there was a sign over his head that said "talk," to which one member of the crowd told Kozelek to lighten up and have a drink. Ironically, this Lee's Palace crowd was unusually quiet and "behaved." It could be argued that the artist was asking too much, as the atmosphere was as good as it gets for an intimate one-man-with-an-acoustic performance.

But it was a career-spanning set that we were hoping for and that's what we got. Kozelek opened up with AC/DC's "Up in My Neck in You." His Modest Mouse renditions went over well, and the Cars' "All Mixed Up" was met with great enthusiasm. Will Oldham and Genesis rung through the night as well. But songs like "Summer Dress" and "Blue Orchids" captivated the crowd to such an extent it felt as if time stood still. These types of moments were aplenty, and warranted the almost two-hour set. If Kozelek's scolding of the crowd made anybody feel uncomfortable, all was forgiven and forgotten while he played and sung in that voice that is so uniquely his -- a voice that, along with the lush guitar melodies, put attendees into an almost meditative state.

An unlikely candidate for granting encores, our hard-to-figure-out hero could not ignore the crowd's passion, patience and appreciation. And the award was big. The last two numbers, "Carry Me Ohio" and "Katy Song," confirmed that even Kozelek aims to please.