Published Aug 14, 2011Few things are holy in the world of popular music, but Jeff Mangum proved to be a rare exception. The notoriously reclusive singer-songwriter, previously the driving force that propelled '90s indie into new conceptual and sonic depths with Neutral Milk Hotel, took to Toronto's Trinity-St. Paul's like a returning hero for a second consecutive sold-out show. An air of anticipation permeated the room before and throughout the set, repeatedly reaching a fever pitch manifested as cheers resembling that of a playoff crowd.
The opening act consisted of three of Mangum's fellow Elephant 6 affiliates performing as Andrew, Scott, & Laura (made up of Scott Spillane of the Gerbils and Elf Power's Andrew Rieger and Laura Carter). The band played an hour-long set with songs culled from their combined repertoire and, as Spillane noted, three songs about flying. Solid musicianship was offset at points in the performance with minor technical issues (despite minimal instrumentation) and all but the ramshackle final song were worthy of the night's headliner.
Mangum emerged shortly after sound-checking his own guitars before settling the crowd into a perfect silence with the opening chords of eight-minute epic "Oh Comely." The openers added a new element by joining Mangum on a few songs -- it seemed especially appropriate seeing as Spillane had played the brass parts for NMH. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was best represented, with "Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two," the raucous "Holland, 1945," "King of Carrot Flowers" and "Ghost" all garnering huge responses. There were also a few cuts from NMH's debut full-length, including the gorgeous "Naomi," B-side "Engine" and a Roky Erickson cover.
During a tune-up between songs, Mangum dispelled a rumour he wasn't into sing-alongs; however, the audience remained silent in the next song, which led to Mangum urging everyone mid-song to "fucking sing." It worked, and the flannel gospel choir sang every word with utter conviction and purpose on a night no one who was there could possibly forget.
To check out some live audio clips from the show, head here.