Have you ever been to a concert and the next day you just cannot stop thinking about it? You replay the best moments in your mind and wish you were going all over again?
That was me today. Totally held hostage by my memories of last night's Dan Mangan concert at the Orpheum Theatre.
Early this fall our Winnipeg neighbor and fellow music lover Adrian Wortley turned us in the direction of Dan Mangan. He'd discovered him on CBC Radio 3 and knew we'd love him. We trust Adrian in lots of areas (definitely NOT with home improvement - but most definitely with music). We've sat through many a Winnipeg Folk Festival workshop with the Wortley clan, and Adrian knows his indie music. He knows what we like too, and he was so right about sending us Dan Mangan's way.
Dan Mangan epitomizes everything I love about Canadian music. He's a ridiculously talented musician with an unbelievable band, but more than that, he's a thoughtful and observant writer. His lyrics are brilliant, informed, quirky, witty, and full of social commentary. He's a thinking (wo)man's musician. His tunes are layer upon layer - always leaving you something to discover upon your next listen. He's got this unique gravely voice that we hadn't heard anything even close to before. One of the best parts is that Dan's from Van City, and a proud Vancouverite he is. It's just kind of cool to love an artist from your current town. You can find out more about Dan at his website, here.
At our house, we listen to a lot of Dan Mangan. Especially his album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice. And it's not just the adults, either. Ellie is a huge Dan Mangan fan - even knows most of the lyrics from that album by heart. Her favorite song is "Robots", and if you listen to it, you can see why.
But last night's show was for the grown-ups. An urban night out on the town, if you will. Mike and I jumped on the skytrain and made a quick trip down to downtown Vancouver on a balmy beautiful November night. After stopping for a quick London Fog, we were making our way down Granville Street to the historic Orpheum Theatre.
I love old buildings - especially grand old theatres. And this one was stunning. It's amazing to think this building has been hosting shows since the 1920's. It's still in pristine condition. There were so many details and so much beauty to take in.
We made our way to the lower balcony and discovered our seats were better than we expected.
Opening for Dan were two bands. The first was The Crackling. They're a band made up of musicians from Dan's touring band fronted by Dan's drummer Kenton Loewen. If the fact that he's got a Mennonite name isn't enough, this guy can sing and play. His voice is sort of Dave Matthews like. There are lots of jazz influences in their music highlighted by a great piano player. If you're into great new Canadian bands, you can check them out here.
After The Crackling we heard from The Daredevil Christopher Wright. Yes, you read that correctly. That is the band's name and they were like nothing we'd ever heard before. They're a trio from Wisconsin that sounds a little like Simon and Garfunkel with rich harmonies and crazy percussion. Mike fell in love with their music. If you're curious and want to give them a listen, you can do it here.
Before we knew it it was time for Dan Mangan. We'd heard that his Vancouver show was going to have an orchestral feel and sure enough an ensemble of string, woodwind and brass players made their way onto the stage followed by Dan and the band. Their first song, "About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All" from his latest album Oh Fortune was chill-inducing. For a little taste, here is footage of his performance of that song from a recording he did at CBC Vancouver this fall.
The show was outrageous. The sound was full, and layered and loud. One of my favorite parts of the whole night was the way Dan shared about how as a Vancouver boy he'd always dreamed of just touching the stage at the Orpheum Theatre and here he was, playing to a sold-out crowd. It's always sacred to sit in a space and be a witness to someone's dream being realized.
Dan plays a huge venue like the Orpheum like he's playing a Folk Fest workshop. He's chatty, humble, and personable. Exactly what you hope a Canadian musician to be like. He orchestrated the huge number of musicians on stage with effortless guiding and you could tell he was having one hell of a time. So were we.
The encore was the pivotal moment of the night. The second song of the encore was fan favorite, Robots. The entire crowd was on its feet singing along every word from the very beginning. But the chorus is where things got crazy. Dan turned the microphone to the crowd and just wandered the stage with his guitar obviously soaking in the moment of hearing his anthem being sung by a choir of thousands. After "Robots", Dan stripped everything down - unplugging his guitar and having his drummer bring just a snare onto the front of the stage. It was an acoustic version of the song "So Much for Everyone" with the crowd singing back-up. It was a surreal moment that I was thrilled to discover one fan recorded and posted here for your listening pleasure.
We certainly got our money's worth. I love it when live shows don't disappoint you. I love it even more when they inspire you and leave you wanting more. That's the kind of show it was.
Thank you Adrian Wortley and especially Dan Mangan.
Good men, both.
To read the review of the show from the Vancouver Province, click here.