On Wednesday I was one of the very privileged people to witness Jeff Mangum of revered American Indie band Neutral Milk Hotel perform at the truly gorgeous Union Chapel. It was so nice for a split second I even considered joining a church. For those of you that haven’t heard of Neutral Milk Hotel their music often described as “fuzz folk” or “psychedelic” briefly during the late 90’s they were kind of a big deal. In 2010, Q magazine rated their second album ‘In An Aeroplane Over The Sea’ as the 16th best album of the past 25 years.
We got there early opting for seats in the front row of the upper chapel, sipping our coffees awaiting Mangum’s entrance. Excitement was rippling through the crowd. Mangum appeared wearing a flannel shirt any American rocker would have been proud of and straight away launched into a heart warming version of Oh Comely. I was instantly struck by the simplicity of the chord changes and more than anything the power of his voice. In the 14 years since the last NMH album Mangum’s voice has certainly not diminished. Throughout the set Magnum was regularly joined by NMH hotel member the ageless Julian Koster adding overtones with his saw and violin bow. In a set list comprising purely of fan favourites.
Magnum likened playing to the intimidate venue to when he used to go to friends houses and play songs for them. Although the cynic in me was thinking I bet they didn’t pay nearly £30 for the privilege. Saying that, I was glued from start to finish. A particular pleasing moment came during Two Headed Boy when members of the opening act Music Tapes including Koster came through the back of the chapel playing the drums and horns and marched onto the stage to join Mangum, I managed to grab a Soundcloud recording for you listening pleasure.
After Mangum left the stage the place erupted; the Union Chapel’s acoustics are second to none and Mangum reappeared for two encores, ending with the classic Daniel Johnston song ‘True Love Will Find Us In The End’. After the gig, my friend and I nipped over to the Library pub across from the venue and after a pint we realised that Mangum was standing behind us at the bar. We couldn’t resist saying hi and we exchanged a few pleasantries- he came across as a thoroughly nice guy. A pleasant ending to a great evening of entertainment by still a undoubtedly precocious talent. Nice one Jeff.