After months of anticipation, acclaimed guitar two-piece The Mountain Goats finally graced our fair city last Saturday night.
After a blistering set from Dunedin alt-country legends The Renderers (featuring Maryrose Crook), singer and guitarist John Darnielle made his way through the fairly crowded Creation venue and took his place on stage. With him was the second half of the Mountain Goats, Peter Hughes, donned in some very smart argyle trousers.
Darnielle made a very humble frontman; he was incredibly humorous and awfully self-deprecating. Before each song he would tell the audience the story behind it, these stories ranged from staying at dodgy motels with bulletproof reception windows, to his childhood love-affair with professional wrestling. “Can I tell you a little bit about this song? I promise I won’t ramble for too long”.
Despite “running on four hours sleep”, the pair performed with much energy and enthusiasm. The sound was perfect (however I was standing at the very front by the speakers, so I could be wrong) and unlike the Bonnie “Prince” Billy gig, was not overbearingly hot.
It really was a night of contrast; at times they played their guitars like they were stadium-rock superstars, and at others with delicacy and poise. Similarly, Darnielle recounted memories of his troubled past with a fiery intensity; his eyes enlarged looking almost half-crazed. Then on the flipside, slow and plaintive ballads were at times barely louder than a whisper.
For the entire night the audience stayed completely transfixed by the performance which was all at once rousing, cathartic, witty and very enjoyable.
The pair performed a smattering of songs from Darnielle’s ridiculously prolific catalogue, however much of the night was made up of tracks from the 2005 LP The Sunset Tree. They opened with “Love Love Love” and also performed “You or Your Memory”, a bouncy “Dance Music”, “Your Belgian Things” (from We Shall All Be Healed) and “Lion’s Teeth” which I thought sounded slightly sparse without the violin (however this was my only complaint of the night, and it wasn’t really a big deal!) We were also treated with two tracks from the forthcoming Babylon Springs EP both of which were fantastic (unfortunately I missed out on buying a copy after the show).
The standouts of the night came at the very end; “This Year” was incredibly powerful and was probably the most familiar song for the audience so thus received the biggest applause.
Then came the encore which was a spellbinding rendition of “California Song” from the Sweden LP. During this Hughes took a seat and played a solo bass riff while John Darnielle sang in the most hushed voice “I’ve got joy, joy, joy in my soul tonight”. The most intense silence hung over the audience before Darnielle left the mic, bowed and walked through the stage to the exit. It was the perfect end to a marvellous performance.
Once again, thanks must go to Mystery Girl (who is she, anyway?) for bringing yet another superb musical act to our starved city.
3 months ago