Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, Hayden, Astral Swans at Vogue Theatre

Wednesday 01st, April 2015 / 15:33
By Wolfgang Carol Witness
Dan Mangan at Vogue Theatre. Photo: Lisa Wu

Dan Mangan at Vogue Theatre.
Photo: Lisa Wu

March 14, 2015

VANCOUVER — These days, Dan Mangan is caught between two artistic extremes. On the one hand, there’s the affable folk of his early days; on the other, there’s the more adventurous explorations of his recent work with his backing band Blacksmith. His latest hometown appearance — a two-night stand at the Vogue Theatre — highlighted this divide.

Even the show’s openers emphasized the disparate facets of Mangan’s musical personality. First up was Astral Swans, which consisted of Calgary songwriter Matthew Swann performing a solo set of desolate, engrossingly uneasy dirges from his recent album All My Favorite Signers Are Willie Nelson. Then, after the world’s fastest changeover of all time, Ontario songwriter Hayden led his band in a more straight-laced selection of roots rock with grungy undertones.

When Dan Mangan took the stage, he was joined by the three members of Blacksmith plus a trumpeter and a keyboardist. This expanded line-up gave Mangan’s tunes added heft, as barreling barnburners like “Post-War Blues” and “Mouthpiece” were loud and cathartic, and “A Doll’s House / Pavlovia” was textured and atmospheric.

But while these songs were beautifully executed, the crowd’s energy reached its peak during folksy back catalogue cuts like the triumphant “Road Regrets” and the yearning “Basket.” Mangan’s stage presence still exudes charming relatability, and he was all smiles as the fans in the packed Vogue hollered their appreciation.

In the encore, Mangan played his crowd-pleasing 2009 single “Robots.” And while this song might not have the complexity of his more sophisticated recent output, the singalong coda tore the house down.

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