August 14, 1999
London Highbury Garage
...[B]Mark Linkous[/B] towers above the audience, six-and-a-half feet of spaghetti western terror, his grim bearded visage cowering in the shade of a mighty stetson. He is menace incarnate....
Appearances are deceptive. Mark Linkous towers above the audience, six-and-a-half feet of spaghetti western terror, his grim bearded visage cowering in the shade of a mighty stetson. He is menace incarnate.
It's a sham though. A great big beautiful sham, because Linkous is not some gothic country monster, but a painfully sensitive soul with a great big strawberry ice cream where his heart of stone should be. And that's the problem.
The story of this evening - the only date on a reassuringly pointless tour to promote nothing - is of a man battling to come to terms with the nature of his own brilliance. He's obviously happy with the side of his personality that churns out the gruff, country-core of 'Pig' and 'Hammering The Cramps', but the beast within that comes up with the painfully sparse and elegant melancholia of 'Painbirds', 'Waiting For Nothing' and 'Spirit Ditch' seems to worry Linkous.
His twisted stance as he delivers these tunes shrieks of an edginess beyond any fundamental dislike of public performance. His tendency to pour his soul into a distorted microphone during the cathartic peaks of his best material almost seems like an attempt to sabotage his songs. Maybe he can't cope with the icky-stickiness that lies at the heart of his music; maybe he doesn't want us to know what a softy he really is.
No matter, though, because these frailties only add to the twitchy anti-theatre of the Sparklehorse experience. Linkous might not be willing to wholeheartedly embrace the power of his music, but there's nothing to stop you doing that for him.
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