Not many acts can sell out The Vogue, let alone for two shows. And not many acts can sell out two shows, only six months after another pair of sold out shows. But Dan Mangan isn't just any act, and his hometown shows are always a sight to see.
The first band up was The Crackling, who were some familiar faces. Kenton Loewen was joined by Gord Grdina and Colin Cowan, who all happen to be members of Dan Mangan's band as well. When I had seen The Crackling before, it was just Kenton, so it was interesting to see them as a full band; with Loewen on acoustic guitar, Grdina on electric and Cowan on stand up bass, they gave the songs a richness that wasn't necessarily missing last time, but was definitely welcome. Near the end of the set, they brought out a special guest to play the drums... none other than Dan Mangan himself, and had the crowd singing along to the awesomely named "Keep Me Drunk". It's rare that an opening band can get audience participation, but their engaging songs and stage presence won a lot of people over. Speaking of, they also had some great banter. Kenton has always come across as a pretty funny guy on stage, and when paired with Cowan, the back and forth between them was priceless.
I really enjoyed the set, though I wasn't able to grab a CD, which I regret... but hopefully next time.
After a short break, an emcee came up and introduced The Burning Hell as a "mediocre band from Ontario" before going off stage... and coming back as the lead singer. They had a folk rock feel, with the lead singer on guitar, backed up be a cello and a synth table, which included a glockenspiel, but was named as "whatever that stuff is". All of their songs told stories, and were pretty damn funny, but not in a "novelty song" way, rather with well written and intricate lyrics. There were even a couple callbacks in songs. It only took half a song for them to win me over, and I wouldn't be surprised if I was the only one. At any other show they probably would have outshone the headliner. I was unable to pick up their album as well, and I'm really hoping they're back soon and I get to rectify that.
And finally, it was time for Dan Mangan. He hit the stage with the band and launched into a new song -- I think, at least -- and then brought out the strings and horns for "Sold". He played a few from Nice, Nice, Very Nice before pulling out a newer one, that he's played live for a while now, "Oh Fortune". After that he went into a one-two punch of "Fair Verona" and "Basket", two of his most epic songs. A fair amount of the sold out Vogue was singing along to "Basket", too, and I'm sure there were not many dry eyes in the house for that. He went on to play a few more new ones, "Jeopardy" which consists entirely of questions and "Rows of Houses" (or "Rose of Houses", but that makes less sense), inspired by Stand By Me. All the new songs were impressive, and some seemed to have a bit more of an edge to them; I am very excited to hear them on the next record -- which Dan said they will begin working on in December. The set ended, as expected, with "Robots" and almost the entire house joining in.
He came back for the encore, kind of knocking the tradition, and said he would be doing something a bit special and different. First he brought out Veda Hille to join him on "The Indie Queens Are Waiting", which was great, and then played a damn good cover of Elliott Smith's "Waltz #2". I am very much of the opinion that encores should include special guests, cover songs, and other neat things you wouldn't get in the "main" set, so I quite liked those touches. To end the night, Dan not only called The Burning Hell back on stage, but enlisted the help of the audience for backup "ooh-ooooh's" for "So Much For Everyone", which is always a powerful ending to his shows, especially as he was playing [almost] completely unamplified.
It was a very good show, as you would expect, but he seemed to be a bit less talkative this time. There was some banter and back & forth with the crowd and his band mates, but it didn't seem as much as he usually does. Mangan is as great at the banter as he is a musician, so it was noticeably missing. There was another issue I had, but it was a minor quabble and hardly the fault of the band, and that was the lighting. There were some parts, all throughout the night, that it seemed like every three seconds I was getting eye-meltingly-bright lights directly in the face. Maybe I just had unfortunate seats, but it got to be quite annoying.
Those minor issues aside, it was still an amazing time, and Mangan continues to cement his place as not only one of Vancouver's, but one of Canada's greatest talents.
[new song?], Sold, You Silly Git, Road Regrets, Tina's Glorious Comeback, Oh Fortune, Fair Verona, Basket, Jeopardy, Leaves Trees Forest, Rows Of Houses, Some People, Robots.
[encore] The Indie Queens Are Waiting, Waltz #2 (XO) [Elliott Smith cover], So Much For Everyone.