Monday, April 20, 2015

Live Shows: Neutral Milk Hotel, Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, Providence, RI 4/19/15

This is the one show I've been the most nervous for. Like many people, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of my most beloved and cherished albums. Reunion shows can be dicey, with many being obvious cash grabs by bands looking for a quick nostalgia payday, and just walking through the hits. Because of this (and my hatred of the Orpheum Theater in Boston), I had missed their first run of dates. Since this appears to be their final run, I had to suck it up and head down to Providence.

I'm thrilled to say I had no reason to be nervous. Holy shit was this an amazing show. It was literally everything I could have hoped for as far a a reunion goes. The band, including the notoriously performance shy singer Jeff Mangum, seemed genuinely thrilled to be there. As the other members went through one of the greatest assortments of instruments I've ever seen on a stage (and the only time I've ever seen a banjo played with a bow and used as a noise instrument), they would sing along to the songs with as much gusto as the audience while waiting for their next part to come up. It was truly a celebration of the music. The payday was nice, I'm sure, but they were just ecstatic to be back at it. 

The setlist was split between both On Avery Island and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which seemed surprising since Aeroplane is so widely beloved while On Avery Island is liked but not held in anywhere near the same regard. Live, the On Avery Island songs completely stood up on their own, particularly "Song Against Sex." If you had told me that I would have been riveted for an extended song Avery stretch ("Song Against Sex," "A Baby for Pree/Glow Into You") I never would have believed it. I was wrong. Absolute highlights of the set were "Holland, 1945," "King of Carrot Flowers" (all 3 parts in a row!), and the instrumental "[untitled]." 

Also, wow was that a young crowd. I'd be willing to wager that the majority were still in diapers, if even born, back when Aeroplane came out in 1998. You want to know how young they were? There was a mini mosh pit during "The King of Carrot Flowers, Parts II & III." I'm pretty sure this was the first show any of them had been to that cameras were banned. Many seemed lost without being able to take a selfie with the stage in the background during "Two Headed Boy." [Gets off old man soapbox]

If there are any remaining dates coming up in your area, you're going to need to see this. Head over to their website to check. I'm hoping this won't be it, but will Mangum you never know.

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