US - Georgia - Full Moon 61 - 10/02/01
Live at Jittery Joe's
Jeff Mangum is king! Neutral Milk Hotel rule the world! As we await (and how we
await!) new studio recordings from Jeff and his comrades (a compilation of hard to find material
of early tapes and such is on its way, but we also want, no, demand new songs) we can enjoy
this concert album, a solo acoustic show which took place at a local coffee house in Athens in
1997. Recorded onto high-8 video (it's an enhanced CD, so we can also see the show) by R.E.M.
cameraman and independent film maker Lance Bangs.
The sound isn't all too bad. In fact it helps the recording keep its authencity, catching
Mangum's performance perfectly. Rugged. Stripped. Naked. It also documents the evening's relaxed
atmosphere, with a small crowd (including crying babies! Babies for Pree?) really being
into the music. Hearing the songs performed only with an acoustic guitar topped with Mangum's
intense and powerful voice makes me just a bigger fan, realizing what a g-r-e-a-t songwriter he
is (as if I didn't know...). The show starts with a two-into-one; "A Baby For Pree" gliding
into "Glow Into You" (a.k.a. "Where You'll Find Me Now"), both off NMH's first album,
On Avery Island (1995). He plays two other songs from the debut, the splendid "Gardenhead",
and the stunningly beautiful "Naomi" (who's this Naomi, Jeff?). The majority of the set are
songs later to be included on the second NMH album, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, which
was released the year after this concert took place. Songs such as "Two Headed Boy", its sequel
"Two Headed Boy Part Two", "Jesus Christ" (or "The King of Carrot Flowers Part Two" as it's released
as), the punkish "Up and Over We Go" (which is the original version of "The King of Carrot Flowers
Part Three", and "Oh Comely". The latter makes a fine end as the closing song of the show. Between
"The King of..." parts two and three Mangum makes a charming short stop announcing where Scott
Spillane's trumpet solo should've come in...
In addition to the aforementioned songs he also plays one called "I Will Bury You In
Time", which I haven't heard before. A guy in the audience gets, after shouting three times,
a Phil Spector song; "I Love How You Love Me". Funny. Finally there's "Engine" (heard as
the b-side of Blue Rose's Holland, 1945 7" release), according to Mangum:
"...a happy song I wrote, a children's song...".
A song so sad it hurts, tickling your sentimental feelings, leading to, believe it or not; warmth
and happiness. Mangum's stories is quite something. He leads you through peculiar and bizzarre
surreal tales of love and losing it, of pain and agony - but with a sense of humor. He's telling
burlesque fictious stuff that can freak you out and excite you at the same time. I guess Live
at Jittery Joe's is mostly for fans only. I'm one. But I must admit I miss the horns, and the
fuzzed and distorted sound of the studio albums. Nevertheless, Live at Jittery Joe's is good
company, and (along with the video) a surrogat when you haven't got the chance to see NMH (or Mangum)
See Chelsea's report of Neutral Milk Hotel's visit to Boston
in mid 1998.
Copyright © 2001 Håvard Oppøyen