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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 18, 2014

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Frontman John Darnielle performs with the Mountain Goats Tuesday night at The Pabst.
Frontman John Darnielle performs with the Mountain Goats Tuesday night at The Pabst. (Photo: Erik Ljung)
The band played Milwaukee in support of its new album, "Transcendental Youth."
The band played Milwaukee in support of its new album, "Transcendental Youth." (Photo: Erik Ljung)
Musician Matthew E. White (right) and his seven-piece band opened the concert.
Musician Matthew E. White (right) and his seven-piece band opened the concert. (Photo: Erik Ljung)

Mountain Goats play a "transcendental" set at The Pabst

Touring in support of their latest release, "Transcendental Youth," the Mountain Goats performed at the Pabst Theater Tuesday night.

The Mountain Goats opened their show with "Love Love Love" from their fantastic 2005 album "The Sunset Tree." Unfortunately, for the first three numbers of the set, Peter Hughes' bass was disproportionately high in the mix and drowned out some of the vocals. This included both "Until I Am Whole" and their performance of the opening track from the new album, "Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1."

After the latter song, frontman John Darnielle expressed his joy that those surrounding the stage liked the new album enough to know the words to the song.

While the general admission show was contained within the first level of The Pabst, it was clear that those in attendance appreciated the music and Darnielle's unique charms. Unlike most performers who might introduce a song as being about a single topic such as love, Darnielle uses vivid language to explain specifically what the song is about.

Darnielle's song introductions were fascinating because of this element of unpredictability. For example, before the band played "First Few Desperate Hours," Darnielle explained that the song was about the first moments when one realizes they are going to get a divorce, but having to remain patient for it to come like a child waiting for the Easter Bunny.

Most of the concert featured the core trio of the Mountain Goats: Darnielle, Hughes and drummer Jon Wurster. However, throughout the show, the band mixed up the configuration so Darnielle performed on his own, as well as just with Hughes or Wurster. During this shift when the full band wasn't on stage, the song that garnered the biggest reaction from the audience was "You Were Cool." This song is a cult favorite since the Mountain Goats have never released it on any of their albums, making it a "live-only" specialty.

The Mountain Goats also spiced up their lineup by adding a three-piece horn section called the Transcendental Trio for the back end of their set. The added brass was well utilized for "White Cedar" and "In Memory of Satan," which Darnielle described as "kind of a bossa nova song about the devil."

Towards the end of the Mountain Goats set, Darnielle revealed his sincere appreciation for The Pabst Theater.

"I don't know if you're aware of this, but this is one of the best venues in the world. Not to be all 'I've been around the world,' but I've been around the world!" He then explained how he sometimes gets "road amnesia" and only remembers the Fuel Café in Milwaukee before his brain reminds him about The Pabst.

For the encore, the Mountain Goats and the Transcendental Trio returned to the stage to play the titular track from "Transcendental Youth." The last song of the night was "This Year," which was the most energetic number of the show. It also had the most audience incorporation, as almost all of those on the lower level of The Pabst sang in unison to the line "I am going to make it through this year if it kills me."

The opening act was Matthew E. White, who played with a seven-member band (three of which were the Transcendental Trio). After noting it was his first time in Milwaukee, White then said he wanted to go to a Brewers game and was bummed that the timing didn't work out.

White performed songs from his new album "Big Inner," with the standout being the set/album closer "Brazos."

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