Art School, 09/10
Dressed in unusual rock band attire of a dinner jacket and red chinos with bare feet, Mountain Goats’ frontman John Darnielle strides onto stage, having a little groove to ‘Highway Star’ by Deep Purple on his way to the microphone.
Manic and bespectacled, he sparks a warm rapport with the crowd, telling fast-paced and habitually witty stories ranging from hefty topics such as his past drug abuse problems to musings about unicorns. The songs don’t mark much change from these tales, supplemented only by the heavenly sound of whatever instrument Matt Douglas happens to be holding, along with Darnielle’s furious pounding of his acoustic guitar.
Darnielle has racked up 16 albums, and tonight the set roams freely across them, his confessional song-writing giving the gig an invaluably personal feel. The Goats’ latest album Goths is centred on a theme Darnielle describes as ‘closer to my heart than any of the Mountain Goats albums previous’, inspired by an adolescence spent captivated by 1980s goth music. The set kicks off with ‘Andrew Eldritch is moving back to Leeds’, a homage to the Sisters of Mercy frontman. Formidable support act Skylar Gudasz also joins the duo on vocals for ‘Wear Black’, an ode to the goth scene which is a definitive highlight.
By the final encore, ever popular track ‘No Children’ is played, the blackly funny story of a toxic marriage breakdown from the bands 7th album Tallahassee. Darnielle leans down beaming into the crowd and thrusts the microphone forwards – the disturbing lyrics ‘I hope we both die’ are screamed back to him by a cavalcade of joyous fans. I luxuriate in the simple cathartic pleasure of forgetting everything and singing; scanning the room, you’d be hard pushed to find a face that is not grinning.