Dan Mangan @ Vogue -- 02/12/19

A little bit of snow (and of course Vancouver's notorious inability to function in the snow) wasn't going to stop me from making my way downtown to a sold out Vogue Theatre, for Dan Mangan's big hometown show. Especially because I was equally excited to see the opener.

That being La Force, the latest musical project from Ariel Engle. She was joined only by Evan Tighe on drums, starting off with a cover of Angèle Arsenault's, "Je Suis Libre" before going through songs off her latest, self-titled album.
She showed off effortless charm as she chatted with the audience between each, showing off her unique cigar-box guitar, as well as some fun vamping or ad-libs at the end of a couple songs -- or in the case of "Upside Down Wolf", a short medley of "Pump Up The Jams" and "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?".
Other highlights of the all-too-short set included the dark & tense "TBT", "You Amaze Me" which showcased her enchanting vocals, and the hauntingly gorgeous "Lucky One", which finished off the set.

Aside from as a member of Broken Social Scene, the last time I saw Ariel Engle performing her own music was as AroarA (with her partner, The Apostle of Hustle himself Andrew Whiteman) in someone's backyard after a promoter unceremoniously cancelled their show last minute. And while that show was special on it's own merits, it was much more fitting to see her playing somewhere like the Vogue.

It wasn't long after that Dan Mangan hit the stage with his band, kicking things off with the first song off More or Less, "Lynchpin". The evening focused mostly on the new album with songs like heartbreaking "Fool For Waiting", the amped up energy of the infectious "Troubled Mind", and "Lay Low", my favourite off the new album and what would have been the best song to use as an excuse for missing the show.
He also gave just as much time to his breakout Nice, Nice, Very Nice, as "Can't Not" segued into "Road Regrets" and the sold out theatre sang along, as well as songs like "Pine for Cedars", showing his roots with lyrics filled with references to the city.
Part way through the set, the band took a break for Dan to perform a few songs solo on his acoustic guitar, fielding requests for the unreleased "There Is No Such Thing As Wasted Love" and playing the soul-crushingly sad "Basket", before being joined by Carleigh Aikins for a beautiful version of "Indie Queens Are Waiting".

Dan was giving it all to the hometown crowd, and the crowd was happy to reciprocate, offering Dan an extended ovation when he mentioned the troubles he had writing this album, nearly bringing him to tears. But also making him laugh and lose his place in "Jeopardy" when someone earnestly answered the lyric "What time is it?"
There were also many times during the night the audience joined in to sing, including three in a row to end off the night as the main set ended with another old favourite, a slowed down version of "Sold". Then Dan returned after mere moments with perhaps the greatest Canadian singalong, as every single person joined in with "Robots".
Finally, the night ended with every single person that had been on stage coming out, including a horn section, and Dan wading into the crowd. He stood atop a chair, with the house lights shut off, and a large light he called The Hammer illuminated him, while everyone on-stage & off provided backing vocals -- and even harmonies -- for "So Much For Everyone".

It's been a few years since I've seen Dan Mangan perform, and even more since the last "full band" show, and I think I forgot just how good he is. How he can command any room, even a sold out Vogue Theatre, and make it feel like an intimate living room show.

La Force setlsit
Je suis libre [Angèle Arsenault cover]
Can't Take
Upside Down Wolf
You Amaze Me
Lucky One

Dan Mangan setlist
Cold in the Summer
Can't Not
Road Regrets
Pine for Cedars
Lay Low
Which Is It
Race to the Bottom
Just Fear
There Is No Such Thing As Wasted Love
Indie Queens Are Waiting
Fool For Waiting
Troubled Mind
Peaks & Valleys
So Much For Everyone

#SingItFwdFinale @ Vogue Theatre -- 01/14/16 & 01/15/16

This is it. The end of an era. Since 2011, David and Ambrosia Vertesi have been organizing the annual #SingItFwd event, with proceeds going to the St. James Music Academy, a music school for underprivileged children in the Downtown East Side. 
But this year, the shows came to an end with a giant, star-studded two night finale at the Vogue Theatre. They brought back old favourites, and new voices, for two completely different lineups to say goodbye. 

Each artist got a short, 3-song set (usually) and while in past shows they had been more acoustical, this year saw a mix of stripped-down and full-band sets.  Hosted by Tamara Stanners (of The Peak) and Cory Ashworth (formerly of The Peak), the night also included interstitial videos of various bands with the SJMA kids. 

Both nights are covered in this post, so click through to see everyone that played, the surprise (and not-so-surprise) guests, and who covered which David Bowie songs! 

Read More

Dan Mangan + Blacksmith @ Vogue Theatre -- 03/14/15

Not counting a couple festivals and secret shows, it's been a little over two years since the last "proper" theatre show from Dan Mangan in his hometown of Vancouver. Since then he has not only released a new album, Club Meds, but also "re-branded" a little bit. The new album was much more of a collaborative effort with his long time band members -- Gord Grdina, Kenton Loewen, and John Walsh -- and so Dan wanted that to be reflected in the name. And such, the folksy strumming of Dan Mangan has turned into the psychedelic rock of Dan Mangan + Blacksmith. And together with members JP Carter and Tyson Naylor, the band hit the Vogue Theatre to end off their tour with a pair of shows at the Vogue Theatre.

Starting the night was a very short set from Calgary's Astral Swans. Matthew Swann was on stage for about 15 minutes, alone with his guitar (and a bit of a nervous energy) playing songs off his album All My Favourite Singers Are Willie Nelson, which was released on Madic Records, a label Dan started specifically to release this album.
Songs like "You Carry A Sickness" and "Attention", were powered by his haunting voice, and in keeping with the name of his album, he also did a cover of a Willie Nelson song, "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain". It sounding somewhere in between the psych-folk of the rest of his set, and the country twang of Willie.
It was a short but sweet set.

There was almost no changeover time before Hayden came out with his band. Honestly, I never really got into Hayden's music and the only other time I had seen him live was a set at the Vancouver Folk Fest main stage, the bright and sunny beach not really a good setting for the sadder songs he was playing. So I was interested in seeing him play in what was certainly a more suitable venue.

The set was a collection of alt-rock songs, many of which started softer before building to an intense ending, that spanned his career, going back to the 90s. At one point the band took leave for Hayden to play the heartfelt "Bad As They Seem", off his debut album Everything I Long For.
Hayden also went from guitar to take a seat behind the keys for "Bass Song", one of the highlights of the set for me, which built into an absolutely chaotic ending. Other highlights included the set-ending "Dynamite Walls", and "Hollywood Ending", where they were joined by JP Carter on trumpet for a song that broke down a little at the end, finishing with Hayden laughing at some on stage antics -- which they joked about after, the band in very high spirits.
Along those lines, Hayden flashed a dry, self-deprecating humour a few times, certainly most evident when he drolly exclaimed something along the lines of "This could be the best your life gets" before pausing for a moment to reflect, and adding "I fucking hope not"

But ultimately, while I can certainly respect his talent, the set didn't really do anything to convert me. Still just, not my thing.

And finally, Dan Mangan + Blacksmith arrived to moody lighting and the intro to the first song from Club Meds blasting through the speakers. They kicked right into "Offred" for a set that mostly focused on that album, and their previous Oh, Fortune. In fact, there was only one older song in the main set, and that was when the "new" sound the band had was most evident, during the ending of "Road Regrets" as it soared into a giant finale.

There were also a few opportunities for the members of Blacksmith to shine, as if to hammer the point home that they were a band now, not just Dan solo with some other guys. Guitarist Gord Grdina took over vocals on "A Doll's House", a distorted trumpet solo from JP lead into "Pretty Good Joke", and a phenomenal drum solo from Kenton Loewen brought the house down as it lead into the fierce "Post-War Blues".
But of course, some things didn't change. Dan still told a few stories and jokes -- and playfully bickered with Gord -- throughout the set, and the whole band still had a great stage presence and chemistry together.

Other highlights included my two favourite songs from the new album, "Forgettery" and the fast paced & frantic "Mouthpiece", before the set drew to an end, appropriately enough, with the final song off Club Meds, "New Skies".
There's no way that was going to be all, though, as Dan came back out alone and poked a little fun at the whole tradition of the encore (though also admitting it did feel pretty good). The theatre hushed for an incredible performance of "Basket", perhaps the only song from Nice Nice Very Nice that resembled its original, since it was just Dan on his acoustic, his gruff voice buckling with emotion.

As the rest of the band came back out, they asked the crowd what to play, before setting on "Fair Verona", and a song that Dan admitted they hadn't really been playing on this tour, the fan favourite singalong "Robots" (I assume he would have been run out of town if he didn't at least play it it in Vancouver) which had the whole crowd singing along, naturally, as well as Astral Swans and Hayden -- and at one point Gord's young daughter even joined them on the microphone.
But even that wasn't quite enough, as they played one last song, a completely reworked rendition of "Sold", the frantic song slowed way down to something that more resembled a ballad, as Dan reunited The Granville Street Choir to sing along and draw the night to a close.

It was the end of the tour, hometown show, and everyone was excited to be there; on stage and in the crowd. I've really been liking the new album from the band, and this was really my first chance to witness them really play it live. And it did not disappoint.

Offred; Vessel; Starts With Them, Ends With Us; Leaves, Trees, Forrest; Post-War Blues; Road Regrets; Pretty Good Joke; Forgettery; A Doll's House; Mouthpiece; Rows of Houses; Kitsch; New Skies.
Basket; Fair Verona; Robots; Sold.