Dan Mangan and BlackSmith + Astral Swans @ Corona Theatre – 21st February 2015

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A Whole New Dan Mangan

DanFan FunFact #1
Sorry Ladies, Dan is married.

Moments before stepping on stage, Dan Mangan‘s face lit up, just off to stage left. Various flirty female screams filled the air. He bashfully waved to the front rows. All the lights dropped and the band took their positions. The anticipation was high inside the packed Corona Theatre.

Dan and his band are known for putting on intense shows, but the loyal fans were in for a surprise this night. A whole new Dan Mangan was about to present himself to Montreal; More on that later.

DanFan FunFact#2
Opening band Astral Swans was recently Signed to Dan Mangan’s spiffy new Record Label, Madic Records, an offshoot of the popular Arts and Crafts record label.

FIRST UP! Matthew Swann the sole member of Astral Swans took to the stage with his self described “…dollar store guitar…” that was clearly being held together with packing tape. The PA system was still blasting something that could have been The Macarena. As Mr. Swann peered down at the chattering crowd the through his striking moustache and large square spectacles, one could almost feel his unease. The PA system did not let up.

Hey Macarena! Or something like that.

This is when Mr. Swan decided to combat the sudden unexpected Latin turn that the night was beginning to take. He propped up his dilapidated guitar and began a “Mash-up” of sorts by attempting to play over the PA. He was clearly winning the battle, but the PA insisted on playing almost the whole way through the first song. The PA was defeated and the night officially began.

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Astral Swans gave it his all. He captured the attention of the once chattering crowd and made the moment his own. His face twisting and curling with intensity as he let loose. His powerful, haunting voice and simplistically smooth guitar filed the room as if there was a full band backing him. Which there was not. It was just Matthew.

Playing songs from his new album “All My Favourite Singers Are Willie Nelson” and a cover of a Willie Nelson song, Astral Swans kicked off the night in just the right way.

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DanFan FunFact#3
Dan Mangan has stated on manny occasions, including during this show, that he is a BIG fan of Canadian Icon “Hayden”.

SECOND BATTER!! Hayden.
Hayden Killed it. Just Killed it.

I must admit I knew relatively nothing about Hayden before this show. I knew he had done the the theme song to the Steve Bushemi movie “Tress Lounge”, because I love that movie. I also knew that the the two kids in front of me had traveled for 3.5 hours to be there that night just to see Hayden. They proudly showed me selfies with the rocker they had taken at previous shows. But I did not expect to enjoy his set as much as I did.

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Hayden and his 100% CanCon band know how to …
a) Build up a song to an amazing crescendo.
b) Have interchangeable drummers and guitarists
c) Be Canadian.

There were moments during Haden’s set that I found myself so wrapped up in the music that the rest of the world ceased to exist. This simply doesn’t happen enough. In general that is.

DanFan FunFact#4
Dan Mangan did the soundtrack for the film “Hector and the Search for Happiness”. It is a great movie. You should see it. He makes a brief cameo in the movie. But don’t blink.

And Now Ladies and Gents. BATTING THIRD. Mr. Dan Managan.

Something was different about Dan Mangan as he opened with the song Offered, the first track off his new album Club Meds.
There was a concentrated intensity in his eyes that I have never seen before. After belting out the song Vessel (the second track off his new album Club Meds) I could sense that the cheeky, joke-cracking troubadour that I had seen play for a handful of people as Sala Rosa only four years ago had matured. He had come a long way. He was leaner, meaner and his beard meant business.

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DanFan FunFact#5
Dan likes Canadian Beer. (Bonus fact, Dan has great taste)

What has changed for Dan?
Dan is not a solo act anymore. He now tours under the moniker “Dan Mangan and BlackSmith”. I have a lot of respect for this move. This is the band that he has been touring with and recording with for years. To show his gratitude by including them on his ticket is truly a classy move.
And Dan should be grateful to have such an amazing band backing him. Lead guitarist Gordon Grdina stole the spotlight many times during the performance with his signature licks and stage theatrics. Kenton Loewen and John Walsh, long time cronies of Dan, gave solid performances and didn’t miss a beat.

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DanFan FunFact#6
Dan recently became a dad for the first time.

Dan Mangan took a big risk with his latest album, he left his comfortable “hipster-indy-pop” background and did something far more experimental and complex. I think this risk payed off. Watching the band create a whole new landscape of sounds was both entertaining and inspiring. With trumpets looped to delay petals and MPCs played to the beat of never before heard percussion instruments, dissidence became musical and grew into a wall of sound that fell onto the audience. We all ate it up.

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Did Dan play all the fan favourites? No. While he did play his much loved classic “Basket” and hit “Sold”, his breakthrough sing-a-long hit “Robots” was left off the set list, as was his poppy “The Indie Queens are Waiting”. Dan left behind many of his go-to songs in favour of playing his new album, almost in its entirety. This is the sign of a musician who is confident in his craft.

Dan told the audience that he was more proud of the new album than of anything else he had ever done. As he should be. Far too many artists don’t take risks and end up becoming irrelevant, but Mr. Mangan has nothing to worry about.

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Review – Myles Beeby
Photos – Chelsea Gray

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