Elephant Six label-mates Elf Power opened the show by asking if anyone had attended the Horseshoe show. Only one hand went up, which just shows how big both bands have gotten over the last 15 years. Neutral Milk Hotel’s absence has only added to their fandom, and the intrigue surrounding the band. The fact that they’re actually on tour again seems miraculous to most fans, myself included. So when Mangum took the stage, people understandably went crazy, and not just because he had a giant beard. I could actually hear people saying things like “Is this real?” and “Is this actually happening?” during the show.
They played all the hits, including everything on In An Aeroplane Over The Sea and standout tracks from On Avery Island. Having seen Mangum play solo at Trinity Church in 2011, the Kool Haus show was a completely different experience. The audience was dead silent during the Trinity Church performance, (except for applause) and Mangum’s solo performance really highlighted the albums’ folk roots. With the whole band reunited for the Kool Haus show, the band’s rock sound came through, giving songs like “The King of Carrot Flowers” and “Holland 1945” a harder sound. Part of this change can also be attributed to the venue. At Kool Haus, the music had better be loud, or else you won’t be able to hear it over the rowdy bar atmosphere.
Overall, I really enjoyed the show. Mangum’s voice sounded exactly like it does on In An Aeroplane Over The Sea: raw, loud and slightly off-key. Although I had seen Mangum before, I still felt like I had to pinch myself. But in the end Mangum made sure everyone knew he’s just a regular guy, humble despite his success. He spoke very seldom during the performance, but one of the few things he did say was, “Thank you, my friends.”