Neutral Milk Hotel have become an iconic band. A band of almost mythic status. They made two albums in the 90s of immense quality. The second one is close to perfection. Then they disappeared and the myth grew. Eventually, perhaps surprisingly, they came back. In 2013 they started to play live again. They even managed to make it all the way to Australia. I was lucky enough to see them at the Enmore Theatre. It was a night I will never forget. Such joy. Such happiness. Such excitement. So in 2014 I was getting itchy feet to return to the USA. To revisit some old favourites, see some new sights. But I needed a touchstone to base the trip around.
Then I found it!
Neutral Milk Hotel were playing a show at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. I was in. And what a night it was. Having said that it wasn't as perfect as the Enmore show. Mainly because that was a standing affair and we were down the front, close to the stage and feeling part of a heaving mass of joyous humanity. The Hollywood Bowl is a great venue. It a great experience, but it is set up as a sitting venue with a lot of the areas designed for dining. Very civilised. And quite large. So even though my seats were pretty handy I was still a little way from the stage. So it felt a passive show, not the emotional blockbuster that Sydney was. But the band was still great. From the moment Jeff Mangum entered solo and started "I Will Bury You in Time" I was hooked. As would be expected the set was fairly similar to Sydney. The main point of difference was no "Oh Comely" in Los Angeles. But instead we did receive the remarkable "Little Birds". Of course songs like "Two Headed Boy" and "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea" were just magical. And if you are not moved by their closing three songs then I'm not sure if you have blood in your veins. Who knows what the future holds for this mythic band. Will they ever record again? Will they continue to tour? Who knows? For now I am just grateful that they are with us.
I Will Bury You in Time
The King of Carrot Flowers, Part One
Ferris Wheel on Fire
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
A Baby for Pree / Glow Into You
Gardenhead / Leave Me Alone
Song Against Sex
Snow Song, Part One
Two-Headed Boy, Part Two