Dan Mangan gets personal

Thought-provoking lyrics and engaging personality make for a fulfilling live performance


For those of you who do not know who Dan Mangan is, I encourage you to go out right now and buy every album he has ever produced. I first heard Dan Mangan’s music myself when it was featured in Western Canada Theatre’s production of “Are We Cool Now?” here in town, and I immediately fell in love and went home and downloaded his entire discography. When I heard he would be coming to Kamloops I rushed straight to the Internet to buy tickets.

Dan Mangan performed this past Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Coast Kamloops Hotel & Conference Centre. The Coast Hotel is not the first place that comes to mind when I think of a concert venue, but I was on board nonetheless. The usual tables were folded down and they had crammed as many chairs in as possible, which was a bit uncomfortable. All apprehension for venue was forgotten however when I heard the first note played in that room. The acoustics are dynamite; the sound really filled the room, adding depth and making you forget that you were sitting in a space that could only hold about 400 people.

(Tristan Davies/The Omega)

(Tristan Davies/The Omega)

The first note played was by a man with slicked back hair dressed in all black. He introduced himself as Christopher Smith, lead singer of the Vancouver-based band Dralms. Smith will be travelling with Mangan on his tour until Revelstoke before meeting up with the rest of Dralms for a European tour. Smith crooned into the mic for a few songs, which was followed by an intermission, and then Dan Mangan himself.

If there is one person that embodies indie music, it is Dan Mangan. His raspy voice and lack of vibrato make his songs feel very raw, and very personal. Mangan comes across as a very down-to-Earth Canadian-born boy, which shows in his lyrics. And his deep thoughts don’t stop at his music. Mangan told nearly as many stories as he played songs, which only added to his charm. In order to give his audience a deeper look into his music, Mangan touched on topics ranging from serendipity and existentialism to Shakespeare and Margaret Atwood (the latter of whom he referred to as “some dark shit”). He even discussed the recent change in Canadian politics, saying he now feels “like there’s a lightness in the air.”

Mangan normally plays with a backing band, Blacksmith, and this is his first solo tour in a long time. He said “I had to prove to myself I could still do this alone.” Playing solo allows for some freedom however, and Mangan took advantage of that by being more flexible with tempo, giving a slightly new feel to otherwise familiar songs such as “Post-War Blues,” “Pine for Cedars” and “Tina’s Glorious Comeback.”

“One good thing about having a band,” he explained, “is that they can make noise while you tune.” He then asked if anyone had any questions to fill the awkward silence. After a pause, one audience member called out “Have you seen my Leatherman?” to which Mangan replied “Shit man, no, I haven’t.” The baby-faced 32-year-old has such a shy stage presence it seemed almost out of place for him to chat with the audience so much. Nevertheless, he engaged himself quite thoroughly with frequent eye contact and conversation, and even got us to sing along with a few of his songs.

When Mangan’s show unfortunately came to a close, the audience was on its feet immediately, and did not let him leave until he played another three songs. And then after those three, we were again on our feet, encouraging a fourth encore. For this final song, Mangan asked that we stay standing because “you sing better that way,” and brought the house lights up so that he could move to the front of the stage and connect his voice with ours even more effectively.

I could not have asked for a more fulfilling concert experience than this one. Mangan is an incredibly talented, well-spoken and introspective musician, and I can’t wait until I have the chance to see him perform again.

Mangan will conclude his tour in Halifax, N.S., where he will play his last two shows with Symphony Nova Scotia on Jan. 22 and 23.