Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
Nice, Nice, Very Nice
Dan Mangan, Will Currie & The Country French and The Sure Things at The Rivoli in Toronto
Frank YangAs with pretty much every night last week, Friday came with a list of entertainment options a mile long, and while some more intrepid types tried to take in as much of it as possible via club and in-store hopping, I was content to settle in at the Rivoli for what promised to be an exceedingly solid night of music headlined by Vancouver’s Dan Mangan.
A bit of set time miscommunication meant missing much of The Sure Things’ set but I did manage to catch their last few numbers of energetic, straight-ahead, good-time country. In the short span I was there, I caught a spoon solo and covers of AC/DC and Talking Heads, done hoe-down style. They’re fixtures of a sort around town, with residencies at both Salvador Darling and The Cameron House and a CD release show for their new record Two Dollar Bottles at the Dakota on October 30.
Waterloo’s Will Currie & The Country French may have “country” in their names but that’s not an accurate descriptor – if we were doing things up literally, they’d be called “Will Currie & The ’70s AM Radio Piano Pop Anglos” but alas, we live in a world that accepts that sometimes one’s name can be deceptive. That aside, there’s little to dislike about Will Currie and his crew – upbeat piano-led tunes were the order of the day, accented nicely with saxophone and foot-on-monitor, classic rock-style lead guitar. There were hummable melodies a-plenty, but few of the big hooks that would make his tunes really memorable. The one exception was “Push Pins”, their collaboration with fellow pop purveyors (and label bosses) Sloan, whose Jay Ferguson made a special appearance to contribute vocals and tambourine to the tune, still in toque and coat and looking like he’d been literally pulled off the street 30 seconds earlier. That one sounded like a hit (in a world where great pop songs were still capable of becoming hits), and if Currie could string together a few more like that, he’d be onto something really special.
Dan Mangan could tell his tourmate a thing or two about being onto something special, as his latest Nice, Nice, Very Nice is precisely that. Even since writing a glowing review, the record has grown on me even more and I was plenty anxious to hear it done live. Somewhat surprising was that while Mangan was touring as a four-piece (I think the fifth player on stage was a Toronto-only guest), they were performing drummer-less, instead building their sound with strings, keys and horns and while I’m sure it’d have sounded just as great with a conventional timekeeper in back, this setup seemed perfect for conveying and emphasizing the warm, easy, laid back feel of the material. And it’s that warmth that came across most strongly in the show – Mangan has a sharp, observational eye and if he chose to, could probably deliver it with just as sharp a tongue but there’s no mistaking the genuine affection for the characters that inhabit his songs, rich with both humour and sadness. It’s the same sort of gift that John K Samson possesses and while Mangan prefers a more rootsy vehicle for his tunes, Weakerthans comparisons are not out of line and should be taken as compliments.
The show covered much/most of Very Nice and the main set was capped off with a rousing, “Robots” where they pulled out a large toy robot rescued from a Sarnia thrift store and sent it on an entertaining crowd surf for the duration of the song, and this it was able to do easily, because the Rivoli was well and properly packed for the show. It was obvious that Mangan has already built himself a sizable fanbase, but there was also a sense that this show was catching him on the cusp of bigger things – at least if Very Nice gets the attention it deserves. So even if I’m a latecomer to the man and his work, it was nice to be able to catch him at this moment. Very nice indeed.
Photos: Dan Mangan, Will Currie & The Country French, The Sure Things @ The Rivoli – October 16, 2009
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Road Regrets”
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Robots”
MP3: Will Currie & The Country French + Sloan – “Push Pins”
Video: Dan Mangan – “The Indie Queens Are Waiting”
Stream: Dan Mangan / Roboteering
Stream: Dan Mangan / Nice, Nice, Very Nice
MySpace: Dan Mangan
MySpace: Will Currie & The Country French
Woodpigeon are sending the equivalent of aural postcards from their recent visit to Ottawa and their ongoing residency at the Banff Centre (an experience which Mark Hamilton described as, “holy shit”), posting new songs to their website almost daily. Something to keep your ears warm until their next record Die Stadt Muzikanten arrives on January 12.
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “In The Mountains”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “You’re My Only Home” (Magnetic Fields cover)
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Asleep & Dreaming” (Magnetic Fields cover)
MP3: Woodpigeon – “85”
Joel Gibb of The HIdden Cameras tells Chartattack their next album might take some dub directions. In the meantime, they will tour Origin: Orphan around North America, ending with a December 5 show at the Opera House.