Neutral Milk Hotel, Albert Hall, Manchester - gig review

4.00

For many (myself included) part of the allure of the package that came with discovering Neutral Milk Hotel was that it was bound in mystery, rumour and enigma.

A band absconded by its own creator and songwriter, Jeff Mangum, who supposedly went underground due to the pressures of new found fame and notoriety that their second album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea brought him and then - like a haunted house – was left dormant for years, gaining a new lease of life, a fresh set of rumours and an escalated cult status for every new generation that discovers it.

Sixteen years since the band’s last release Mangum bumbles on stage to a thunderous roar, his hair long and scraggly tucked under a cap and sporting a huge bedraggled beard – a get-up that hides his face almost entirely.

This could almost be read as something of a playful in-joke to his once supposed hermit status, if he still didn’t seem so uneasy and hidden on stage at times. However, conversation is not the reason people are here, so Mangum’s vocal absence of personality throughout the evening can easily be forgiven.

Starting solo and acoustic Mangum hammers his guitar strings and sparks up the intro to ‘Two Headed Boy’. Mangum’s voice is a delightful but strange beast; it’s so powerful and brunt, raging and blowing like a heavy gale and, like being caught in a windstorm, it whips and changes direction constantly, almost always on the verge of steering off course. The unpredictable path of Mangum’s vocal delivery is often what makes it such a transfixing experience. At its peak it sounds like the blasting foghorn of a ship out at sea and yet at it’s most delicate it’s still that same unmistakable, powerful sound of a foghorn blast but from a boat coming to rescue you, one soaked in comfort, ease and an inescapable, permeated joy.

The band joins him for the natural follow-up ‘The Fool’ as drums pound, horns toot, resonating richly as accordions howl gently. Neutral Milk Hotel are often mistakenly lumbered in with other ‘lo-fi’ groups and affiliated sensibilities, however, intricate, multi-layered instrumentalism and considered textural accompaniment have always been as integral a component to the group’s output as the rudimentary, raggedy guitar-and-voice combination. No more so is this clear than throughout this evening - Julian Koster’s singing saw is a constantly delightful touch, one that both weeps and floats, a drifting soundscape that succeeds in being both melancholic and uplifting at the same time. Similarly, the accompanying brass can be as exuberant and bold as it can wistful and sombre.

Tonight’s venue is an old Methodist Church and during the searing sing-a-long to ‘The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. Two & Three’ the sight and sound of seeing 2,000 plus people, arms aloft, screaming “I love you Jesus Christ!’ takes on a strange, rousing atmosphere as crucifix’s punctuate the building via the stain glassed windows that circle the entire room. It’s clear however, that any devotion is placed entirely towards those stood on stage making an explosive, rambunctious racket.

Tonight ends with Mangum solo again on ‘Two-Headed Boy Pt 2’ before the band briefly return for the last time on ‘Engine’ which is a delicate, understated farewell to an evening that – much like the band themselves – has swatted back and forth between moments of euphoric, collective expulsion and intricate, introverted isolation.

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little