Neutral Milk Hotel - 1/16/14 - Orpheum Theatre
Audience Interaction7
Visuals7
Energy9
Sound9.5
8.1Overall Score

On Thursday night at the Orpheum Theatre, Neutral Milk Hotel returned to Boston with a bang. Led by front man Jeff Mangum, the band delivered on all accounts and slowly the band’s recent absence from the national scene faded into the distant past.

After Neutral Milk Hotel’s flagship album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, was released in 1998, the band went on a long tour, which ended up taking its toll on Mangum. At the end of that year, Mangum left the band altogether, no longer interested in moving on with the project. Each of the members went off to join various smaller bands, playing very few shows, and very few Neutral Milk Hotel songs. Mangum remained almost entirely absent from the public eye.

Over fifteen years later, Mangum was the first to take the stage on Thursday. Tumultuous applause heralded his return, and only continued as he began his first song, a heart-wrenching solo version of “Two-Headed Boy,” from Aeroplane. Mangum’s drawling vocals took center stage, hitting every note with breathless precision. As the song came to an end, the rest of the band sauntered on stage and began a raucous performance of “The Fool,” another song from the same album, reminiscent of a funeral dirge.

The band was back with force and energy. Accordions, trombones, trumpets, euphoniums, and even singing saws filled up the venue with a cacophony of sounds that didn’t finish until the very end of the night. French horn solos rocked the crowd, especially on the classic and lively “Holland, 1945.” Band members traded instruments following practically every number, showing off the band’s versatility and providing exciting new instrumentations for each song. As the set came to an end, after the entire Aeroplane album had been completed, they returned to encore with “Engine,” a haunting song not on either of the band’s full length albums

Overall, the show was a grand success for a band that many people thought would never be back together. Neutral Milk Hotel delivered a power-packed and unforgettable performance. Their tour continues around the United States for the next few months, ending at the Coachella Music Festival and then moving on to Ireland, England, and various other stops around Europe.

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