Many an American singer has made the provincial towns of his native land sound indescribably romantic to the ears of British listeners.
So it’s good to see it works the other way – The Mountain Goats’ songwriter John Darnielle spent the 1980s obsessing over the black-clad bands of gloomy Northern England despite the drawbacks of trying to be a Goth in sunny California, and now is touring an album about it.
Full of wry, empathetic tales of fans and musicians past and present, the new songs certainly strike a (dark, minor) chord in the hometown of all things Gothic, on this, the last of two sold-out nights at the Brudenell, a venue and audience the band have a mutual warm rapport with. Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds is an inevitable highlight, a homage to the Sisters Of Mercy kingpin, preceded by a comic blast of dry ice.
Eldritch fails to be summoned from the realms of darkness however – the only person who looms out of the fog is multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas brandishing a flute. For all the musical nostalgia in the lyrics, it’s The Mountain Goats’ progression from their own raw, lo-fi origins that’s on display here, with jazzy sax and piano joining the trademark pounding acoustic guitar. Excellent support act Skylar Gudasz joins them on vocals for Wear Black.
As is the way with Mountain Goats gigs, the set roams freely across their 16 albums. Darnielle’s songs stomp fearlessly into the dark corners of life, usually coming up with a grin on their face, albeit a slightly disturbing one.
Everyone roots for the hapless metalheads of The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton, while This Year remains possibly the most uplifting song about stealing your abusive stepfather’s car, and No Children a blackly-funny marital thermonuclear implosion.
Having reconciled himself to fans treating it as an unlikely love song, Darnielle performs it crooner-style to bring down the curtain on two triumphant Leeds shows, wandering into the crowd, lost among waving arms.