In case you were wondering where Dan Mangan is from, tonight’s crowd has no hesitation in reminding you. This is one of the most excited and happily noisy audiences this venue has ever seen, and it could well be an O week show in Vancouver, so often do you hear shout outs to Canadian sporting teams (Go Canucks! Go Vancouver! Go Canadians!). The stage is littered with acoustic instruments, an electric bass and guitar, the crowd with happily drunk Canadians. As Mangan and his band walk out the place erupts with cheers that are soon drowned out by swells of feedback, bowed double bass and shimmering of cymbals that begin ‘About As Helpful As You Can Get Without Being Any Help At All’, the opening track from his most recent album Oh Fortune.
As the first of many heartfelt and vibrant indie-folk tunes finishes and is replaced with cheering, Mangan begins his banter that can only be described as even better than his excellent songs. ‘You have a very cool city. I went to Fitzroy, it was nice, I would reference some other areas we walked around…but I would pronounce them incorrectly,’ he deadpans between more friendly heckles. ‘Did you know Whistler is the 3rd largest Australian city?’ He continues. ‘And judging by the turnout tonight, Melbourne is Vancouver’s third largest suburb’. He and the band ease into ‘Oh Fortune’, then ‘Leaves, Trees, Forest’ each of which foreground dynamic shifts, the roughshod playing of acoustic guitars, Mangan’s wailing vocals and smart, evocative lyrics. Feedback is barely controlled and at times instrumental passages resemble Godspeed You! Black Emperor with patches of chaos and frantic playing soon replaced by bucolic meditations.
As ‘Sold’ kicks in, the crowd hollers, stamps, claps and sings with a rare fervour. “Sweet!” he smiles at us after the applause dies down. “We got nominated for some awards back in Canada,” he mutters to more cheers. “But the most exciting thing was that the host was William Shatner…fucking Nickelback,’ he grins. The amazing ‘Road Regrets’ follows, with its huge chorus that any non-fans know only too well by the end.
The equally catchy and driven ‘Post War Blues’, and Stand By Me-inspired ‘Rows of Houses’ follow, amidst discussion of wi-fives (online high-fives), the German equivalent ‘vi-fi’, and a brief acoustic interlude of ‘Basket’ with its whistling solo from drummer Kenton Loewen, a song that actually causes quietness amongst the audience. The storming ‘Some People’ follows and allows guitarist Gord Grdina to run rampant over his acoustic in a very un-folky way. ‘Geo-Party’ aka ‘Jeopardy’ with its every-line-a-question delivered with genuine angst and stellar playing all round sends the band off to a massive ovation.
The highlight of the night comes late, and the encore of his big Canadian hit ‘Robots’ trumps even ‘Road Regrets’ for its deafening crowd participation and overwhelming positivity. The final song ‘So Much For Everyone’ sees the band somehow squeeze into the centre of the room and play acoustically, while the audience sings loud backing, closing what can only be described as wholly amazing and unforgettable set.
– Andy Hazel