LIVE: Neutral Milk Hotel Captivates At The Hollywood Bowl With No Screens To Distract (9/18/14)

Neutral Milk Hotel, The Breeders, Daniel Johnston
September 18, 2014
Hollywood Bowl
Los Angeles, California

The Hollywood Bowl is an iconic venue that can host over seventeen thousand music fans a night. With such a substantial capacity—and a penchant for booking not-to-miss lineups—the large video screens throughout the amphitheater ease the pain (for attendees towards the back) of not actually being able to see the bands. This luxury was not available for Neutral Milk Hotel fans on September 18, but the visual loss enhanced the sonic catharsis that the devoted audience needed.

The emotional movement began with a powerful set by Daniel Johnston. The Texas-based singer-songwriter, who’s battled continuously with schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder, flew through tracks from his prolific discography including Fun’s “Love Wheel” and Yip/Jump Music’s “Speeding Motorcycle.” Johnston ended with a gorgeously heartbreaking rendition of “True Love Will Find You in the End” and a standing ovation from the crowd. The Breeders—the Pixies’ Kim Deal’s early ’90s alt-rock side project, now a full-time gig—followed with pitch-perfect precision, and a set filled with new material (including a track called “All Nerve”), which fit seamlessly alongside classics (“Cannonball,” “No Aloha”).

Before Neutral Milk Hotel started, an announcer reminded all that no photography was allowed. There were few snaps of the group as they walked on, but the loyal audience mostly complied with the request. Beyond quietly asking if the crowd was feeling good, Jeff Mangum didn’t interact with the audience. But his voice was strong. The group (the In the Aeroplane Over the Sea lineup) followed their leader and his eclectic timing, wherever it took them; while “Holland, 1945” seemed a tad disjointed, both parts of “Two-Headed Boy” were extended, allowing the Bowl to feel Mangum’s love for the track.

After a brief encore of “Engine”—even though the group promised they wouldn’t do “that leaving the stage and coming back bullshit”—the audience began to shuffle out. While there were a few lamenting the fact that they couldn’t see much, the consensus was that the show was a powerful experience for the educated masses who came to pay tribute to the pioneers of whimsical indie rock, and the fans who were able to hear their favorite songs played live by the full band for the first time. FL

Neutral Milk Hotel Hollywood Bowl Set List

I Will Bury You in Time
Holland, 1945
The King of Carrot Flowers, Part One
The King of Carrot Flowers, Parts Two & Three
Naomi
Ferris Wheel on Fire
Two-Headed Boy
The Fool
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
A Baby for Pree / Glow into You
Gardenhead / Leave Me Alone
Song Against Sex
Ruby Bulbs
Snow Song, Part One
Little Birds
Ghost
[untitled]
Two-Headed Boy, Part Two

ENCORE

Engine

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