The Mountain Goats - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:
The Mountain Goats - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
The Mountain Goats - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

The last time I saw The Mountain Goats John Darnielle had just penned a concept album about professional wrestling, Beat the Champ. Fast forward to 2017 and Darnielle has taken inspiration from a youth spent listening to The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy and -perhaps most importantly- the more obscure Gene Loves Jezebel. Appropriately enough it’s called Goths.

This now leaves Darnielle with the tricky yet enviable task of crafting a set-list from a mighty sixteen full-length studio albums (and that’s only when you discount a number of cassette only early 90’s releases). With a seemingly never-ending supply of great songs, it’s easy to see why the band has managed to sell-out The Brudenell Social Club two nights in a row.

It’s a stripped-back performance with just Darnielle, his acoustic guitar and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas gracing the stage. They start with ‘Have to Explode’ from 2002’s Tallahassee LP; the audience hanging on his every word. The crowd sing along to most of the set, moving from the kind of whispered accompaniment you might provide in your bedroom to full-throated, passionate singalongs.

‘In the Craters of the Moon’ comes next with Douglas providing some superb, ‘Baker Street’-worthy saxophone. Enough praise can’t be heaped on the versatile multi-instrumentalist who manages to move seamlessly between keyboard, electric guitar, flute and saxophone throughout the show.

Where other bands would simply run-through the new album and leave, there’s something altogether more special about tonight’s performance. Darnielle looks genuinely chuffed to be here while his mid-song rambles ensure we’re never short on humour. The show at times feeling like you’ve booked The Mountain Goats to play your front room (albeit with a few hundred close friends).

The new album makes its first appearance a few songs in with the wonderful ‘Unicorn Tolerance’; a song about hiding your inner “soft creature” under a veil of angst. A song for the teenage Goths of yesteryear that hid their love of the fantasy genre behind blackout sunglasses.

Later we get ‘The Grey King and the Silver Flame Attunement’ with the crowd already singing along, “I’m hardcore/ but I’m not that hardcore”. Darnielle introduces the song with an anecdote about a guy with fangs he saw “at a stop light in 1986”. Whether it’s through songs or a funny anecdote Darnielle has an undisputed gift for storytelling.

‘Rain in Soho’, a dedication to a now defunct London club called the Batcave, already sounds like a classic while a smoky, almost- jazzy rendition of ‘Wear Black’ utilises the rather lovely vocals talents of tour support Skylar Gudasz . An especially warm round of applause is reserved for the fantastic ‘Andrew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds’. Darnielle wrote the song on a sunny beach in California but couldn’t wait to bring it home to the Brudenell Social Club.

While the band has remained a cult concern these songs deserve to be heard by as many people as possible. It’s the smallest details, the humour, the heart-breaking observations and the striking imagery that make Darnielle’s songs feel so engaging and relatable. Just take tonight’s gorgeous rendition of ‘Get Lonely’ as he delivers the line, “and I will get lonely and gasp for air/ and send your name up from my lips like a signal flare”.

For every moment of stark introspection there’s a song that lifts us up, raising our voices in solidarity. The heart-racing optimism of ‘This Year’, the brilliant cries of “Hail Satan!” during ‘The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton’ and the dark yet oddly euphoric ‘No Children’ closing the show in fine, rabble-rousing style. The final moments find John Darnielle heading into the audience to join us for one last bout of communal singing. Who said indie was all about staring at your shoes?

 

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