Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
Dan Mangan and The Daredevil Christopher Wright at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto
Frank YangMuch of Dan Mangan’s appeal comes from his everyman-ness – and his beard, if you ask certain friends of mine – so when he was playing the back rooms of bars, as at The Rivoli in October 2009 or The Horseshoe in April 2010, it felt perfectly natural. Those shows also felt utterly jam-packed – because they were – making it unlikely that the club circuit would be able to serve his ever-growing audience for very long. And so when he played Trinity-St. Paul’s in his last proper Toronto show last October, it felt like he’d made a significant step up.. or so I’d imagine – I missed that show, making this past Friday night’s performance at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in support of Oh Fortune the first time I’d be seeing Mangan in such a formal setting. Or as formal as you could get with a Hallowe’en theme park located around the corner.
Openers The Daredevil Christopher Wright were certainly impressed with the venue. The Madison, Wisconsin trio said as much during their set, between showing off songs from their new EP, The Longsuffering Song. Their whimsical, carnival-like musical sensibilities and endearing presence was easy to enjoy, but with the instrument swapping and impeccable harmonies, it was impossible to not notice the formidable musicianship and sophisticated songwriting underneath. It was no stretch to say that while they’re not nearly at a point in their career to be headlining theatres like this, they’ve got the talent to get there. Or to a big top. Whichever.
Dan Mangan, on the other hand, had already grown comfortably into the posher surroundings. Fronting a seven-piece flannel orchestra, he opened with Oh Fortune‘s “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All” – complete with wall of noise introduction – and over the next hour and fifteen, took full advantage of the room’s acoustics and the capabilities of his band to reproduce the complex textures of the new record. I was sorry I missed The Crackling, who’d opened up the night, as they were made up of some members of Mangan’s band and really stood out in bringing his songs to life and in many cases, eclipsing the recorded versions. In particular, the effected/delayed trumpet of JP Carter was used as a ghostly sonic backdrop for much of the show and the barber shop harmonies that opened up “Some People”, to say nothing of the big instrumental jam in the bridge, were remarkable enhancements.
But just as I described Mangan’s steady presence in the sonic swirl of Oh Fortune, so too was he a rock of solidity throughout the show with his mostly-acoustic guitar, gravelly voice and thoughtful, empathic songs. Interestingly, even with so much going on sonically I found myself compelled to pay even more attention to Mangan’s lyrics in this live setting and more fully appreciating the way he balances simplicity and depth in his songs. A particular standout was “Basket”, from Nice, Nice, Very Nice, which Mangan said was a birthday request though its ruminations on aging make it kind of a grim birthday tune.
Though the set was relatively short, Mangan managed to fit an impressive number of tunes into his allotted time and also a goodly amount of banter; this may have been physically the furthest he’s been from his audience, but he was still able to reach out and connect with them and make it feel intimate. After ending the main set with an aptly-named “Jeopardy” – his amp was making unhappy noises and threatened to blow up at any moment – he returned for the encore solo at first, inviting the audience to sub in for Veda Hille on “The Indie Queens Are Waiting”, offering a faithful reading of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” and then closing out with a full band “Robots” – of course” – and placing his mic facing out into the crowd to play chorus while he went for a wander in their midst. A fitting end to a show that was eminently satisfying, with Mangan proving that his charms easily translate into larger rooms and larger audiences. There weren’t any surprises, but then that’s not his game – he wasn’t here to argue or debate or make bold declarations; simply to play his songs and strike up a conversation with friends. We were all friends here.
Photos: Dan Mangan, The Daredevil Christopher Wright @ The Queen Elizabeth Theatre – October 28, 2011
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune”
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Road Regrets”
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Robots”
MP3: Dan Mangan w Shane Kyczan – “Tragic Turn Of Events”
MP3: The Daredevil Christopher Wright – “The Animal Of Choice”
MP3: The Daredevil Christopher Wright – “The East Coast”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Rows Of Houses”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Sold”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Robots”
Video: Dan Mangan – “The Indie Queens are Waiting”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Road Regrets”
Video: The Daredevil Christopher Wright – “Stewardess”
Stream: The Daredevil Christopher Wright / The Longsuffering Song
Feist talks to HitFix and has also released a video taken from her show at the Glenn Gould Studio in early October, which will be broadcast on CBC Radio 2 tomorrow night – November 2 – at 7PM. She is at Massey Hall on December 1.
The Washington Post talks to Katie Stelmanis of Austra, who are at The Phoenix on December 1 and whose set at Moogfest this past weekend is streaming over at NPR. Both support acts for that show – Young Galaxy and Tasseomancy – have also just released new videos.
The Darcys have announced they’ll play an in-store at Kops Records on Queen West on November 7 starting around 1PM for a sort of teaser of their full show at The Horseshoe on November 18.
And finally, how much does Toronto love My Bloody Valentine? Enough to stage not one but two concert events honouring the twentieth anniversary of Loveless, that’s how much. The first, Toronto’s Loveless, goes this Friday, November 4, at the Toronto Underground Theatre and will feature performances from Ruby Coast, Volcano Playground and others – admission $10 at the door. And as a bonus, event organizers Gold Soundz have assembled a Loveless tribute album comprised of Toronto artists – many of whom are playing the event – as well as Memoryhouse and Silver Dapple.
The other event is a Wavelength joint called Lovel(in)ess which will feature a complete reading of Loveless by an assemblage of local players calling themselves So Much Sorry as well as a set from Flowers Of Hell and MBV covers from a variety of other acts. That one takes place November 18 at The Garrison, admission $10 or pay what you can.