John Darnielle has always had a notable aura about him. From the early days of grainy bedroom recordings, to his polished major releases, this is a man with the air of a preacher about him; a learned man with much life experience to tell a world which would benefit to hear it. Well for tonight The Mountain Goats are making The Union Chapel their world, and we're all in for a truly special sermon.

Walking with his head down, a flop of messy dark hair covers Darnielle's face as he joins his towering band mate, Hughes, center stage. Before a single note is played a truly rapturous reception echoes through the ornate building - testament to the sizeable cult following that the Californian three-piece have amassed.

Due to bass problems, the set starts with an impromptu solo acoustic version of 'Jenny', strummed excitably by a, now gleaming, Darnielle. As he rolls straight through to the gloomy 'Dana Plato', the bass kicks in with a rumbling authority. Clearly in good spirits, the two musicians introduce 'Fall of the High School Running Back' with a caveat for their English audience, "a carry is when you run the ball, rather than going gung-ho, and hurling it down field" explains Darnielle, before entering a back-and-forth with Hughes about the length of a good carry. The song was delivered with the rough urgency with which it was recorded, and lines like, "selling acid was a bad idea, selling it to a cop was a worse one," retained the same tragic comedy.

A surprise set highlight comes in the form of lilting ballad 'Wild Sage'. Slowed down and stripped back to an acoustic waltz, it's a beautiful adaptation on one of the band's most traditional folk songs. As the final chorus closes Darnielle stepped away from the mic, belting out the final lines "Wild sage blowing in the wind" to a captivated audience. The pace quickened for 2012's nod to Scarface's least well-known drug lords on 'Diaz Brothers'. Having recently become a father Darnielle gives insight into his increasing positive outlook on life, however, "it's still possible to have an existential crisis in a hotel room in Middle America." This is the background to one of the band's most tragic songs to date, 'Maybe Sprout Wings'. "Ghosts and clouds, and nameless things, squint your eyes and hope real hard, maybe sprout wings." When hearing lyrics like that it's hardly surprising that there was a substantial campaign to instate Darnielle as Poet Laureate in American last year.

Following a really strong close to the set, including notable performances of 'Woke Up New' and the ever-sensational, 'Love Love Love', the encore begins with a downbeat version of their iconic track 'Tallahassee'. It's always been a slow, sombre number, but this stretched performance of it falls a little flat. This is further compounded by the two closers, bawling rocker, 'See America Right' and 2000's lo-fi album track 'Shadow Song'. It's not quite a vintage set list from the band, and tracks like 'The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton' are sorely missed, however, it's still a truly incredible performance overall.

As I look around the room full of tapping feet and smiles that seem to stretch on forever, I am reminded of the closing track's lyric - "This is a song for you in case I never make it through" - and it's so clear, for the crowd of The Union Chapel every single moment of every single song was for them.