Live Review: The Mountain Goats - The Bakery

2 May 2012 | 5:27 pm | Zoe Barron

"Much of the gig had this air of spontaneity, the impression that things had been vaguely planned, but this was one unique show, rather than another repetition of every other show they’ve ever played. Darnielle loves what he does. He plays his gigs with little-kid enthusiasm and it’s infectious."

More The Mountain Goats More The Mountain Goats

It was a little disconcerting when they missed a year but here they are back again – the annual, clockwork event of The Mountain Goats' return to Australia. Catherine Traicos warmed us up softly, with guitar and low voice and sultry lyrics. She played beautifully but forgettably, with the main spark of the set coming when she invited Philip Everall up to play bass clarinet – not an instrument you see every day.

The people were there for The Mountain Goats though, and it was easy to drift out the back and wait for them to take their rightful place onstage. It was, of course, worth the wait. Finally the three of them entered stage left: Peter Hughes on bass, who's been around since 1995; Jon Wurster on drums, who's a more recent addition, joining the band in 2007; and frontman and originator John Darnielle himself. Darnielle said hello, and then they smashed immediately into For Charles Bronson from All Eternals Deck – Darnielle's mouth open wide, strings flying, his poor acoustic cowering under his violent strikes against it. 

Soon, the crowd was singing along, a trend that only let up when the band played brand new songs from their next, as yet unreleased, album. During these, everyone became noticeably quieter, listening with closed-eyed attention. Their love for Darnielle and the band was palpable – everything they did was engaged with and consumed unwaveringly. And Darnielle interacted wonderfully back. Each song had a story and when he wasn't telling those he was offering some sort of preamble or observation. Darnielle spoke with the crowd like the awkward, kinda geeky best man at a wedding standing on a chair at the very end of the reception to address who's left, and who then surprises everyone with how articulate and entertaining he turns out to be.

Last year's album All Eternals Deck commanded some of the set but there was a healthy spread of older songs and favourites as well. Towards the middle, Hughes and Wurster left the stage, leaving Darnielle to play four songs all by himself – songs not listed on the set list but chosen on the spot. Much of the gig had this air of spontaneity, the impression that things had been vaguely planned, but this was one unique show, rather than another repetition of every other show they've ever played. Darnielle loves what he does. He plays his gigs with little-kid enthusiasm and it's infectious. The band smashed it. The crowd loved it. And they will no doubt be welcoming him back with open arms when he comes back to do it all over again next year. Only this time, they'll be able to sing along to those new songs, too.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter