Having sold out The Corner Hotel, anticipation was high for California’s The Mountain Goats. The three piece, fronted by singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist John Darnielle, really struck a chord around the world with their 2005 release The Sunset Tree and have become regular visitors to our shores since. Lyrically raw and highly autobiographical in relation to Darnielle’s abusive stepfather and difficult childhood, they displayed a candid honesty that anyone around the world can relate to.

Tonight featured the band well and truly in their element on a live front. Apart from Darnielle’s incredible sense of grace and eloquence with his songwriting, what strikes immediately is how the three members of the band truly connect as both musicians and people. These are three individuals that clearly have a great deal of love and respect for each other and on-stage, that warmth is there for all to see.

What really sets The Mountain Goats apart from their peers, apart from their lo-fi approach which spotlights the lyrical content of the band’s music brilliantly, is the underlying sense of optimism that shines through on a lyrical front. At times, on songs such as “Birth Of Secrets” and “White Sneaker,” they aren’t the easiest of listens on an emotional level; However, Darnielle’s brilliance is that he never comes off as self-pitying or wallowing in his own misery. The band even appear to be having a lot of fun on stage, particularly when the Californian singer faked an impromptu spruik for Mountain Goat beer.

There were a number of highlights. “Songs 40+2” and the title track off the band’s upcoming release, Transcendental Youth, really stood out, as did “The Diaz Brothers”. However, the biggest response from the crowd was reserved for “This Year”, off 2005’s The Sunset Tree. A powerful and cathartic song that has become a battle hymn for people with the crowd singing full-lunged, like there was no tomorrow. If there’s a song that captures the brilliance of The Mountain Goats in microcosm, this is it.

It was a truly excellent performance that proved why The Mountain Goats are considered as one of the more compelling and interesting bands operating today.

-Neil Evans.