The first of a very hot two night stand at one of the finest venues in Toronto, Jeff Mangum and co. took the hearts and sweat of everyone for a few hours.
I gotta say, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was an album that I liked so effortlessly. Maybe it was the intense following or respect that Mangum has, or perhaps just how seamless the album is as a whole.
I had a few reserves for this show, I wasn’t entirely sure how warm Mangum would be. He wasn’t radiating, but he certainly wanted to be there. I’ve come across so many established acts that don’t want to be on the stage playing to me. It’s one of the most disheartening things to face just because you pay so much to be where you are you just wish they’d play with some effort. And don’t get me wrong, I get that these people are human and have off days, but it’s their job. The band that comes to mind is Brand New, heartbreakers to the max, especially watching videos for gigs they really wanna be at. Funny enough, Brand New is also the band that I associate with Neutral Milk Hotel for all Jesse Lacey has done. It’s clear that he’s a real big fan:
I guess we won’t hear Lacey play these tunes anymore as Mangum’ s back in the scene.
Mangum opened up with “Oh Comely.” I could tell by the first few chords and I squeemed to my friend sitting next to me. I love that tease/anticipation moment in the show when you can feel what’s coming up next. It was kind of an off beat choice, as it’s not exactly a tune that really rouses the crowd. But to speak to that, Mangum had the crowd by their hearts, complete control and attention. “You guys are very polite” Mangum said to everyone. He had encourage people to sing along and people jumped in for the song “Two Headed Boy, Part 2.”
It was most odd when everyone sang “King of Carrot Flowers Part Two & Three” – the “I love you Jesus Christ” part. I think everyone realised how odd it was, but we all sang along together. A really warm feeling, just singing.
I was pretty shocked to hear “In The Aeroplane Over the Sea” as his second song. It was absolutely flawless. The Gerbils’ frontman Scott Spillane hopped on stage and played the French horn bit with Jeff and his guitar. In the build up to the tune, Spillane hung onto every lyric that left Mangum’s mouth, mouthing the words himself. Clearly, it was a song that resontated with him.
Mangum played a terrific cover of “True Love Will Find You In the End,” which I actually only heard because of Basia Bulat’s cover of it. Funny enough, I saw Bulat exiting the show. I almost wanted to thank her for getting me into that song much more accessibly than the Daniel Johnson version. No doubt in my mind that Mangum’s version with make another concert’s worth of fans Johnson fans.
I think my favourite Mangum cover is of the tune “I Love The Way You Love Me.” A song produced by Phil Spector for a girl group called The Paris Sisters in the sixties. Not performed at this gig.
plus one more:
He played a very modest encore of just one song.
A few words on the Elephant 6 opening act – Scott Spillane (The Gerbils), Laura Carter (Elf Power) and Andrew Reiger (Elf Power). They played a real odd mash of tunes, I think it ‘s just a reflection of just how odd the collective really is. I think I felt them so warmly because I had seen them as Elephant 6, a real power house of an ensemble. I respect them more than I like their music. I also think that Jeff Mangum is incredibly weird, he’s just become somewhat of a household name so people welcome him better and much easier than the other folk. Mangum also enjoyed heaps more success than the other Elephant 6 artists.
I really adore Scott Spillane, who very softly introduced the band by first name before they played. I was not-so-secretly hoping that they would play the Gerbils’ song “Glue.” They didn’t.
Mangum covering it (no less hopeful in his set too):
I like the Gerbils’ version heaps more than the Mangum version. But Julian Koster’s saw solo at the end totally makes it.
They did however acknowledge the Cowboy Junkies album that was recorded in the chuch. Elf Power lead Andrew Reiger said that he was really honoured to be at Trinity St. Paul because of the fond associations he has with the venue. They then proceeded to play what I only think is a Cowboy Junkies tune.
I strongly believe that “Two Headed Boy, Part 2” influenced how Lacey finished the Brand New album Deja Entendu with the door slamming shut.
So my final scatterbrained thought would have to be why Mangum labeled this tour “Jeff Mangum” rather than “Neutral Milk Hotel.” He is afterall, Netural Milk Hotel. I’m thinking he didn’t have full arrangements, so perhaps that’s why. I loved how he filled them in on his own by humming the horn sections bits. He even finished off the medley of “King of Carrot Flowers, Part 2 & 3” with the word “OK” as the album does. Showed some sense of humour.