For over 20 years, singer-songwriter John Darnielle has fashioned his group, The Mountain Goats as one of the most literary acts around.
In its current incarnation, the band played Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre, gradually turning the venue into a non-stop sing-along. Things began slow, with the opening song Michael Myers Resplendent reflecting upon the responsibilities of an actor playing a masked movie killer.
However, by the second song, Oceanographer’s Choice, the energy level had noticeably shifted. By now, the audience had locked onto Darnielle’s rhythm, channeling their life experiences through the band’s lyrics and folksy appeal.
The live quartet, consisting of Darnielle, Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster, and Matt Douglas expanded The Mountain Goat’s catalogue both old and new. For example, wistful fan-favourites such as Get Lonely and The Sunset Tree were given a slight retooling, affording the melancholy of the tracks to be reinterpreted in a fresh light.
From thereon, The Mountain Goats, all wearing dapper suits, were off and running. The evening’s career spanning set pulled together the groups humble beginnings combined with the more recent output of albums such as Goths.
Darnielle was a generous front man who shared tales of his darker years as a youth in Oregon. Halfway through the set, with the band having left the stage, he played a handful of solo songs on guitar, reaching back to 1994 with Going to Bristol.
With a six song encore capping-off the evening, the true appeal of The Mountain Goats show became apparent. With the band’s musicianship undeniable and a set-list brimming with hooks, the experience of witnessing them firsthand was akin to having traveled off to fascinating, far away places.