Neutral Milk Hotel frontman and Shreveport, Louisiana native, Jeff Mangum took the stage at One Eyed Jacks last Wednesday (January 23), playing to a crowd that for months could only dream about what the night might entail. Years earlier, the sudden acclaim and fame that came with NMH’s ’98 release In the Aeroplane Over the Sea steered Mangum away from the stage. Recently, however, the reserved — and sometimes reclusive — musician has revived his live act, performing at several Occupy-related events and taking his acoustic Neutral Milk Hotel show to smaller venues around the country.
When Mangum announced his current North American junket, he stated that it would be his last acoustic tour and that its dates would include concerts in cities (such as New Orleans), which he had yet to perform. Tickets to Mangum’s One Eyed Jacks show were snatched up in less than an hour following its November 15 box office opening, but much to the dismay of many local fans, that hour was actually an hour earlier than stated on the venue’s website. To compensate for confusion, Mangum added a second show to his One Eyed Jacks stop.
Altogether, the set lists were identical and featured acoustic renditions of favorites such as “Two-Headed Boy,” The King of Carrot Flowers,” “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” and “Holland 1945.” Throughout both, the crowd enthusiastically sang along, adding on-point “la-te-das” to Mangum’s lone strum. At one point, someone shouted towards the stage, “Your music saved my life,” to which the grizzled singer sitting on its edge replied, “Your listening saved mine.” In the charm and simplicity of that moment, a familiar yet fleeting sense of enchantment filled the room as Mangum’s unexpected response echoed the unadorned grace often felt in his songs but rarely experienced in concert.