|All photos by Michael Graham|
John Darnielle opened with his much anticipated set of metal covers. He sat at the piano and was joined by a trio of backup singers.
Darnielle’s arrangements of Ozzy Osbourne, Gorguts, Nightwish, and more proved that there was beauty beneath the hard exterior of these songs. He made the audience hear music from a different perspective and likely opened some new ears to a new genre of music.
The crowd was rapt with attention and loving every minute of it. Sometimes the lyrics and the overall absurdity of it all sent the crowd and John into laughter. This wasn’t an exercise in music theory or “look what I can do”; it was an exercise in fun.
When Darnielle announced he was finishing up with “one of the greatest songs every written” – Ronnie James Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark” – the crowd lost its mind.
After a 10-minute intermission, Darnielle came out for a solo set of mostly rarities. He mixed a few more popular songs that went well with certain themes or hadn’t been performed properly before.
He brought the trio of back up singers out again to play “High Hawk Season” in its full glory with all of the vocal harmonies that make it so incredible.
Darnielle, never short for words, regaled the audience with many of the stories behind the songs.
Before “Ox Baker Triumphant,” a fantasy about the comeback of an old wrestler he watched as a kid, he talked about his abusive household as a child. He said the media portrays abusive families as evil all the time, but the truth is there are good days and bad days. His good days were when he watched wrestling with his father.
Darnielle sat at the piano and cleverly retold the narrative behind Super Mario to lead into “Thank You Mario! But Our Princess Is In Another Castle.” He’s an incredible showman and he takes these moments to reel the audience in and make them laugh.
This show felt different from other Mountains Goats shows. The audience was quite. Those who sang along sang to themselves. It was mesmerizing to watch Darnielle alone on stage and hear him and nobody else.
He closed with a cover of Merle Travis’ “Dark as a Dungeon,” but came quickly back out to play “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Outta Denton” on piano to allow the crowd to release all their tension by filling the opera house with a few joyful cries of “Hail Satan!”