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Mark Eitzel - St. Pancras Old Church, London, 10/3/2023

  by Dastardly

published: 26 / 5 / 2023

Mark Eitzel - St. Pancras Old Church, London,  10/3/2023


Dastardly watches Mark Eitzel or ‘Polterg-eitzel’ as he’s now not known conjure magic (and Johnny Mathis) from the walls of St. Pancras Old Church.

CRASSSSSSHHHHHH!!! A deafening noise echoes round St. Pancras Old Church. Mark Eitzel stops playing mid-song and we all turn round squinting in the dark trying to see what’s happened. Somewhere near the back a large ornate carved wooden font cover is lying on the stone floor like a bell. "It’s okay. No one’s hurt" says a voice near the font and soon we’ve turned back round and Eitzel picks up the song again. More accurately the voice would’ve added a "yet" onto the end of that sentence – more of which later. In fact we’ve tested the laws of physics several times tonight already. Before the very first note Eitzel’s at the front of the stage, overcoat still on, struggling with the top of his wine bottle. Thankfully the promoter is on hand and brings a replacement full glass instead. Then a couple of songs in a guitar change ends in a precarious discarded guitar teetering on its stand before giving in to God and Gravity. Twice. Let’s face it there’s nothing like a bit of live mishap to loosen everyone up. Back at the gig Eitzel has the look of a man who’s already played an early evening set and used the interval to try and ‘prepare’ for the second. It’s been several years since San Fransisco posted one of the planet’s last truly great singer-songwriters over to the UK and during that time we’ve learned that Mark has unfortunately suffered a second heart attack. But here he is, standing right in front of us now and as soon as he opens his mouth and hits the first of those long sonorous notes a strange invisible transformation happens. This isn’t so much as a man as a whole building. An office block power-rangering its way upwards with its own weather system and faded 1960s concrete and glass facade. Admittedly a few floors are empty and available for rent but it’s still home to filing cabinets stuffed full of great songs and no doubt a family of seagulls on top.# ‘Patriot’s Heart’ kicks things off. A song that meanders like a long walk round night time streets. You thought this song had foue gears. Think again as Eitzel keeps changing up, keeps increasing the intensity. The song’s protagonist is a male stripper and it’s clear this stripper is ‘America’. "I'm more full of love, yeah, than even natural selection." It’s claustrophobic but you can’t look away. That type of song. You’re here in this bar whether you like it or not. ‘I Love You But You’re Dead’ paints it’s story of rock’n’roll illusion within the confines of a small venue rock club with its beer-soaked stage floor, soundmen yelling Tturn it up, give me something I can use’ and bands so loud they’re "lighter than air." Everywhere Eitzel takes us we can see the interior, the staircase, the lighting, the "thick pile of dust" on the speaker stack. Similary ‘Mission Rock Resort’, although this time it’s the exterior Eitzel’s painting as much as the familiar bar interior. "Let's have a drink at the Mission Rock Watch the Oakland lights across the dry dock Watch the blue, blue sky darken like an inhalation Over the graveyard of ships and your conversation" Sometimes during the gig Eitzel’s guitar playing has been a bit shaky, more like a shaded-in background to the songs, a bare simple frame to hang them on, but with ‘Nothing and Everything’ he locks in and pulls all the air out of the room with some deft finger-picking. It’s like he’s patched in a stillness to every corner of the church. This is the moment we’ll all take home, not the drunk guitar falling over, not the drunk guy leaning on the font but this simple expression of infinity and nothingness all at once. Fan-favourite ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’ is next and succumbs at the second attempt. For some reason this song had never really hit me like some of the others but tonight that all changed. Maybe it was the story he told about how the song came about – a former flatmate years ago saying how his songs would all pale before the master and in so doing unwittingly helping Eitzel create a masterpiece. "Johnny looked at my old collection of punk rock posters Anonymous scenes of disaffection choas and torture And he said, 'You were on the right track but you're a lamb jumping for the knife'" He said, 'A real showman knows how to disappear in the spotlight.'" This last line is as sublime as it is mysterious and all the more so for the sleight of hand Eitzel uses to deliver it, like a playing card flicked across the stage. Likewise set closer ‘Why Won’t You Stay’ with its haunting "She was the most beautiful cloud that ever passed before the face of a girl."These words appear to hang in the air like a special effect as Eitzel waves sheepishly and leaves the stage muttering something about not coming back again "maybe for some time." Let’s hope that’s just the obligatory disclaimer like on a radio ad. Anyway it soon turns out that this particular show isn’t quite over yet.. As the punters drift away I notice some people standing at the back by the font. They appear to be just chatting but then the volume starts to rise and it becomes clear that this is related to the disturbance earlier when the font cover was sent tumbling to the floor. Now there’s movement and two of them are faced-off and dancing like their feet are tied together. Then ‘wallop!’ and a single punch finds it’s mark. Maybe some justice was served.. it kind of looked that way. A moment later Mark appears from the stage area wondering what’s just happened and then greets the battle-of-the-font victor. He’s got his overcoat on and is back in human form again. The tower block has disappeared. Of course, he’s no longer in the spotlight.

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