Review: The Mountain Goats at Badlands Bar, 6 April 2017
As the sound of Deep Purple’s Smoke On the Water faded in on the speakers, The Mountain Goats claimed the Badlands stage. For a band with just a four-piece setup, their musical versatility shone through with guitarist, saxophonist and keyboard player Matt Douglas: his playful sax work on opener In The Craters On The Moon coloured the mood for front-man John Darnielle to tell his layered stories to the eager crowd.
The first part of the set made a point of travelling further and further back through the band’s catalogue, summoning the clenched fist sing-along of 2011’s Damn These Vampires, sweeping versions of Broom People and Cotton. Darnielle also went solo for a performance of the suitably welcoming Colour In Your Cheeks. As it often seems to be, Darnielle’s mood was especially chatty and jubilant, giving the crowd everything from his expansive Pro-Wrestling trivia to addressing differences in the cultural meaning of the term “shelved” between Americans and Australians.
A mid-set performance of brand new song Andrew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds showed the sheer fanaticism of a strong portion of the crowd, shouting back the lyrics of the only six-week old song. This fanaticism reached an absolute apogee with the main set closer This Year, with what seemed like the whole room singing along to the impassioned ode to perseverance and life. Coming back on to firstly showcase the brand new Rhodes-piano driven We Do It Different On the West Coast the closing combination of relative dipoles Love, Love, Love and No Children seems like a peculiar way in which to conclude the set, but the calls of “You are coming down with me/Hand in unlovable hand” from the latter were yelled back with sense of passion that transcended any glimmer of doubt – if any band could have made it work, it was them.