It is safe to say that the city of Vancouver is enamored with Dan Mangan. The BC-born singer-songwriter has remained at the forefront of Canada’s indie rock scene for many years, and his reflective and relatable lyrics have found a home in the hearts of thousands of listeners around the world. After the long and exhausting pandemic break, Mangan’s first gig back was celebrated like a special, intimate party.
The concert was opened by Georgia Harmer, a Toronto-based singer-songwriter who poured her heart out in front of the audience of the Vogue Theatre. Georgia’s songs were a perfect heartfelt welcome and introduction to the headliner’s set. “She is great” — complimenting the opening act Dan Mangan shared — “When I was 23, I sucked”.
It is rare – and very “homey” – when a set starts not with a song, but with an actual greeting: exactly what Dan did. It was then followed by two songs from his 2018 masterpiece More or Less: ‘Which Is It’ and ‘Cold in the Summer’. It took Mangan three years, five cancellations, and rescheduled gigs to finally perform on the home turf again. Dan and his band just came back from the cross-country tour, where playing in front of the “live” audiences felt more special than ever. “I’m gonna try not to talk too much so that we can get through all of these songs we want to play”. Dan was able to play a little bit of everything, songs from every stage of his career, and this is the benefit of a tour that is not promoting a single record. The only new song that Dan presented to Vancouverites was ‘In Your Corner’, released in April 2022, and dedicated to the late Scottish indie musician Scott Hutchinson.
Starting with the opening songs, the crowd was singing along and it was clear that most of them knew every word from Dan’s songs. Since lyrics are a crucial part of Mangan’s art, the singalong moments are important for his live performances, especially in the city where his songs are familiar and dear to many. The audience was screaming their hearts out to the classic ‘Road Regrets’, newer ‘Trouble Mind’, then Mangan’s sing-along anthem ‘Robots’, as well as the only cover of the concert: Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In the Airplane Over the Sea’, that was featured on Dan’s cover album ‘Thief’, and was the most requested cover to perform live. The singing part of the concert culminated at the end of the show with everyone in the audience (including the balcony that stood up to join the song) providing a choir-like chanting to Dan’s early jam ‘So Much For Everyone’, with minimal instruments, which was an intimate and communal moment with music filling every inch of the room.
During the pandemic, Dan Mangan continued being an integral part of the Vancouver (and Canada’s) music scene by providing musicians with an opportunity to book virtual gigs through his platform Side Door. Side Door started before COVID as a tool to connect independent musicians and venues and successfully transitioned into a live stream booking system during the pandemic. Dan dropped a few words about his passion project during the concert, and his involvement with Side Door only goes to show how much of an integral part of the local music scene he is. Keeping the sense of the community alive during the pandemic is a special skill – needless to say, when everyone finally got together in person again, the experience felt more communal than ever. Everyone left with a smile on their faces, many to return to Vogue Theatre the next day for the second dose of a heartfelt Dan Mangan show.