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Neutral Milk Hotel

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill – 12 August, 2014

Written By Hannah Collisson

What does Bexhill have that Brighton doesn’t? Neutral Milk Hotel for one night only.

When asked by the band if they had come over from Brighton there was a positive response from about 50% of the audience, and several people seemed confused by where exactly they were.

Not your average indie rockers, Neutral Milk Hotel released an album in the ‘90s, had a surge in popularity, at which point frontman Jeff Mangum rejected fame and completely disappeared off the radar for the best part of a decade.

That is a recipe for cult status if there ever was one, and midway through their reunion tour they were certainly greeted like gods on Tuesday evening at the De La Warr Pavilion.

Neutral Milk Hotel are a band of contrast and texture, from the music to the musicians themselves.

At one end of the spectrum is former recluse Mangum, remaining a man of mystery and few words, cap obscuring his eyes, at the other, Julian Koster who capered around the stage like a court jester, in red hat and yellow top.

A rich tapestry of lo-fi instrumentation that ranged from ethereal to clattering, sombre to joyful, was conjured up by the delightful mix of guitars, horns, drums, banjo, accordion and Koster’s wailing saw.

The lyrics may be obscure, but the performance was heartfelt, and Mangum’s vocals were a thing of beauty, through the rawness of Oh Comely to the gentleness of the final song of the encore, Engine.

He was often left alone on stage with his guitar, conjuring angst-ridden imagery before being rejoined by the others for a rousing finish.

There was without doubt magic in the performance, and enough to satisfy both those who had made a pilgrimage to see their heroes, and newcomers to the cult of Neutral Milk Hotel.

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