Murray A Lightburn @ Fox Cabaret -- 03/07/19


If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you may know that The Dears are one of my all-time favourite bands. So of course I was looking forward to seeing singer Murray A Lightburn, hot off his brand new album Hear Me Out, return to Vancouver for a solo acoustic show at the Fox Cabaret.

Opening the night were a couple local acts, starting with Sam Lynch, who first took the stage alone with her guitar before being joined by Steph Chatman on violin. Her voice lilted over her soft, singer-songwriter vibes, and while some of the songs kind of had a similar feel to them, the standout of the set was the last song, which I didn’t catch the name of, but had a bit more intensity than the rest.

Next up was Jenny Banai, who I've been meaning to see perform for a while. With a darker, alt-folk sound, a lot of her songs simmered with intensity as her voice burst through. Highlights included the title track for her upcoming album, "Couch Walker", and "Water" building to an intense ending, with Banai's vocals looping over themselves. She also finished with another brand new song, which had me looking forward to the new album.

It wasn't long after when a besuited Murray A Lightburn approached a single microphone at the front of the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, and started with the gorgeous "Bellville Blues" from the new album. I've always thought Lightburn has one of the most powerful, emotion-filled voices in Canada, and it was immediately apparent on songs like heartfelt "Centre of the Universe" and "Anew".
The intimate evening also featured Murray telling a few short stories behind some of the songs, mixing in his self-deprecating humour with picks from not only his solo albums, but also a few favourites from The Dears catalogue ("favourites" being code for "the easy ones" he joked). "Lights Off" and “Ticket To Immortality” gained new life stripped down acoustically, and he poured his heart out on "Warm and Sunny Days" before shifting back to solo material, bringing the main set to a close with “When They See Me".
After making the audience work for it, he was back out for a couple more, starting with the backstory to “Whites Only Party”, where it was suggested he change the name, but Murray thought it was too funny to change — doing something others perceive as ill-advised because you think it’s amusing is something I can deeply relate to. And then capping off the night with one that ranks high on my nebulous "favourite songs" list, the heartrendingly powerful "You And I Are A Gang Of Losers". From the opening chords, I had a huge smile plastered on my face, and as Murray belted out the chorus there may have been a tear or two.

I couldn’t think of a better way to end the night, and before Murray left the stage, he thanked everyone profusely for coming. He was clearly extremely grateful for everyone showing up, and by the reaction from everyone in the room, the feeling was more than mutual.

Belleville Blues
Centre of My Universe
I Give Up
There Goes My Outfit
Ticket to Immortality
Lights off
Warm and Sunny Days
Fan Fiction (Ballad of a Genius)
When They See Me
Whites Only Party
You and I Are a Gang of Losers

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