No room can fit John Darnielle’s voice.
When it’s quiet, it can suck any space empty, turning a mid-sized venue like Lee’s Palace into a bedroom, complete with the friend awkardly singing his heart out. When it’s loud, it seems as if no stadium could possibly hold his warbling shout. When Darnielle wanted to at Tuesday night’s concert, he silenced the room, save for the clanking of a few empties at the back. Whispers would die out. Then, moments later, he’d transition seamlessly into an upbeat but tragic track like “No Children,” a sing-a-long (with neccessary crowd participation) about two alcoholic lovers who wish for nothing less than the other’s death.
The original complaint still stands – The Mountain Goats’ Get Lonely just isn’t as good as the previous albums. If audience applause is an accurate measure of appreciation (and for a night as inconsistent in mood as last night, it may not be), then Darnielle didn’t turn anyone onto the band’s latest. It was the band’s extensive back catalogue that was the crowd’s favourite – a back catalogue so diverse and strong, anchored on tracks like “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton” and the “Going To…” series, that the break between songs becomes a shouting competition between at least a dozen people determined to hear one of their favourite songs out of the hundreds Darnielle’s committed to tape, vinyl, or CD.
Live, Darnielle bleeds a kind of awkward charisma that is instantly relatable and utterly likeable; he is a brilliant poet, cleverly disguised as the everyman. Thankfully, the Goat’s catalogue is so enormous and ripe, and Darnielle’s talents so obvious, that a blip in the discography like Get Lonely doesn’t matter much live.
Or, as Darnielle put it so succinctly himself in “New Chevrolet in Flames,” “my love for you is 98% pure.” The fans, it seem, can agree about that, give or take a percent or two.
More photos from the Mountain Goats and Christine Fellows concert are available in the show’s Flickr set.