It's hard to believe this is only my fourth time seeing Dan Mangan live. But each and every time I have seen him, I have managed to be even more impressed than the last. The first few times were all intimate shows; at the Cultch, in a CBC studio, and in Red Cat Records. But this time it was at the Vogue Theatre. A sold out Vogue, no less. And what's more, he had a full compliment of instruments with him as well. That's the great thing about the hometown shows, I guess, he's able to spring for the horns and strings that add that much more to his performance.
At about 8, a single man took the stage and sat with his guitar. It was Kenton Loewen, Dan Mangan's drummer, in the guise of his band, The Crackling. It's normally a full band, but tonight was just him for a short set. I remember back at Dan's show at The Cultch, Kenton won my over with his drumming and antics, and I was interested in checking out his band for a little while, so it was cool to have him open, even if he did only play a handful of songs for about 20 minutes. The songs were all really catchy, but it was his range that was really impressive. His voice went from a low rumbling, which reminded me of either Tom Waits or Nick Cave, to great heights, sometimes within the same song. I really wish I had cash enough to pick up their album there, but I guess I will just have to wait until the next time I catch a live show, and after that, I will no doubt try my best to do so.
Next up was Jesse Sykes. She, too, normally has a full band with her, The Sweet Hereafter, but last night it was just her and one other guitarist. She had a really nice voice, but her songs were all a bit too similar, and when they were as sweet and low key and mellow as they were, they seemed to run together a bit at the end. I didn't dislike her by any means, both she and her guitarist were really talented, but a little more variety in her songs would have been welcome.
And finally, Dan Mangan himself hit the stage, with his regular band -- the aforementioned Kenton Loewen on drums, John Walsh (of Brasstronaut) on the upright bass and Gord Grdina on guitar -- as well as a half dozen strings and horns -- most, if not all of which were at his CBC Radio 3 show. He kicked off energetically with "Sold", and as he wrapped up you could see him look into the sold out Vogue with a look of amazement on his face, like he couldn't believe he was actually there. But he was, and he positively owned the room. From songs like "Road Regrets" and "Fair Verona", which soared to absolutely epic heights, to "The Indie Queens Are Waiting" performed alone on stage, each song had the audience enrapt. Near the end of the set, he did "Basket" with just the strings & horns backing him, and the crowd was dead silent.
Other highlights was the always awesome "Journal of a Narcoleptic" and "Some People", where he jumped down off the stage into the front area... and was promptly swarmed by girls, urging everyone to gather up at the front of the stage. At one point, mid way through the set, he introduced to the stage his friend & author Ivan Coyote, and played "Pine for Cedars" around a story told by her, about her true love, which was not only a great story but a great performance. Like his work with Koyczan, it's really cool to see something like this, where his music and spoken word storytelling weave themselves around each other.
He also played two new songs, one of which I swear I've heard before, but have I'm not sure where. As per my new game in which I try and guess the name of new songs bands play live, I guess either "The Desolate North" or "Oh Fortune" for the first, and the second, played in the encore, "Death And Such". The main set ended with "Robots" which, of course, has each and every person singing and clapping along. I managed to get half of it recorded on, and while it's not a great quality recording, it wasn't terrible, either. The encore consisted "Above The Headlights", and old song he rarely plays anymore, and he finished the night with "So Much For Everyone", where he dubbed the crowd The Granville Street Choir for our flawless "oooo-ooooh's" backup vocals.
As I said, each time I've seen him I've been more and more impressed, and last night was no different. He managed to still make a sold out theatre feel as intimate as sitting around in someones living room with his effortless charm and storytelling.
Sold, You Silly Git, Road Regrets, The Indie Queens Are Waiting, Journal of a Narcoleptic, Tina's Glorious Comeback, Pine For Cedars (w/ Ivan Coyote), Fair Verona, [New Song], Basket, Some People, Robots.
(encore) Above The Headlights, [New Song], So Much For Everyone.