tue 17/09/2019

Dan Mangan, Stereo, Glasgow | reviews, news & interviews

Dan Mangan, Stereo, Glasgow

Dan Mangan, Stereo, Glasgow

A whole room becomes the Canadian songwriter's backing band for one night only

Happy to share his cleverest lines: Dan Mangan

Dan Mangan’s gravelly, expressive voice and the wisdom that infuses his lyrics do not speak to a songwriter still in his twenties. There’s this song on Nice, Nice, Very Nice, his first album for the Arts & Crafts indie powerhouse back in 2009, that has always given me chills for those reasons. It’s called “Basket” and, the singer explained, is “based on old people” he’s gotten to know over the years. Standing in the centre of an empty stage in the “underground rock'n'roll dungeon” that is Stereo, accompanied only by a battered acoustic guitar and an inopportune air conditioning unit, Mangan commanded a room that just two songs previously had been thrashing around to a danceable trumpet riff to stunned silence.

It was a subtle beginning: a couple of experimental trumpet notes while the guitarist scraped a violin bow over his strings, casual, like the tail end of a sound check. It was a few minutes before a rhythm and a life began to emerge from the noises on stage, by which time it had gotten so loud it was filling your head. It didn’t seem right, it didn’t seem real, but before it became unbearable a pretty little tune emerged from the mists and became the title track from last year’s Oh Fortune.

On record Mangan’s lyrics demand your full attention, but live his cleverest lines took on another life

On record Mangan’s lyrics demand your full attention, but live his cleverest lines took on another life and the crowd bellowed their favourites and danced. The writer himself was happy to share, knowing when to play it confessional and how to whip up the crowd into a frenzied choir who sang the final chorus to “Robots” on repeat. There were songs inspired by the Canadian wilderness, full of forlorn whistles and leafy lyrics, and songs like “Post War-Blues” which Mangan performed as a rousing call to arms. Older songs benefitted from new arrangements - the crazy little trumpet riff added to the walking bass on “Sold” had the whole room dancing, and the already powerful homesickness ballad “Pine For Cedars” was one of the night’s highlights.

Opening act Zeus returned to the stage for a raucous cover of the late Elliott Smith’s “Waltz No. 2”. Imagine a barbershop quartet, or what the equivalent with eight or ten would be (octet? dec... oh, quit while you’re ahead), throw in four guitars and two drumkits and you’re getting close. Zeus themselves were all miraculous blues and handlebar moustaches - I walked in late but couldn’t tell you how much I missed because pretty much every song sounded like that one that builds into a frenetic crescendo that signals you’re getting close to the end of the set. If you don’t think that sounds magnificent I feel sorry for you.

And as if ten band members wasn’t enough, a final “So Much For Everyone” called for full-on audience participation. Stood on a hastily-procured box in the middle of the crowd Mangan demanded our attention and conducted our harmonies right up until an early Sunday night curfew. I can’t have been the only one who left with goosebumps.

Follow Lis Ferla (@lastyearsgirl_) on Twitter

Get an insight into Dan Mangan's world below as his UK tour continues

There were songs inspired by the Canadian wilderness, full of forlorn whistles and leafy lyrics


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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I was there last night and Lisa-Marie has made a brilliant job of explaining the experience (it felt like more than just a gig for me, anyway) to those who missed out. Cracking night – such a tight band and interesting sound. And some cracking banter too.The "I love your trumpet" line from the crowd made for a clever little sketch from the band, as did the differing pronunciation of capo in Scottish/Canadian. All for just £7 for a ticket. A steal!

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