After a 15 year wait, Neutral Milk Hotel return to the live stage and on this occasion were gracing the keen Belfast crowd with songs from their 2 studio albums. This was a sight that most fans never thought they would see and hear again and thus made the night all the better for it.
As the crowd gathered, the night got under way with support from Laetitia Sadier, a French indie singer/songwriter, probably better known as contributing vocals to the band Stereolab. Sadier played a decent set and the crowd seemed receptive to her slow softly spoken style.
It wasn’t before long that the main act took to the stage. Lead vocalist, Jeff Mangnum took to the stage, solo to rapturous applause and kicked the night off proper with ‘Two Headed Boy’. The band then joined the stage for the instrumental ‘The Fool’ but it wasn’t until the third song that the place roared together for the song ‘Holland, 1945’. They continued to play a strong first half of the set, playing every song like it was the last song of the night.
The stage appeared packed with the usual guitars but also brass instruments, accordions, a banjo and even a saw! The band played together excellently, considering this was their first proper live show in so long. However with it being a balmy Thursday night in a packed sold out Limelight, the crowd grew slightly restless with the many toing and froing of the band on and off stage.
The band had a good interaction with the crowd despite their a strict no photography or filming policy (which Mangnum enforced on occasions). On the night it was a mixed crowd of gender and age, those who knew this distinctive band from the start and others that had caught them since.
It is true what they say, absence does make the heart grow fonder but in the case of Neutral Milk Hotel, this crowd will be hoping they don’t leave it as long for the next time. Good venue, quality band, great night! Michael Chapman, GiggingNI.com