Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Live Review - Dan Mangan

Dan Mangan (26/02/2012)
Live at Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane.
Supported by: Leader Cheetah
Review by Jo Michelmore
Photography by Cordell Sanders

Sometimes on a Sunday night, does one bother to go out? It had already been a big weekend and I wasn’t sure I was convinced I could stay awake and on my feet long enough to bother. Wow, lesson learnt. Never say no to going out on a Sunday night, amazing things can happen on Sunday night and imagine how awful it would be if you missed them. This was one Sunday night gig I won’t be forgetting.

Sunday night in the Valley is a strange time, but ascending the staircase to the Black Bear Lodge takes you into another world far away from the filth of the mall and makes everything worthwhile. Four songs into his set, Dan Mangan told a little story and I knew this was a gig I was going to love, a night I wouldn’t forget and a Sunday night worth making the effort for.

The support act, Leader Cheetah, a four piece band from Adelaide, were not what I expected and I’d say I kind of liked them. In fact, I even bothered to Google them when I got home, which isn’t something one often cares to do about the support act. I found out they’ve played with Interpol, Elbow and Sarah Blasko in the past! Impressive! Even though only half of the band were represented they still managed strong harmonies and impressive lyrics; a little bit indie pop, a little bit folksy and a little bit country, they kept the crowd interested enough to keep quiet while they played. That’s not something a lot of support acts can say. Next thing you know, I may even purchase an album. Most support acts don’t inspire that either. Mangan chose well.

Even though it was a sold out show, the Black Bear Lodge is not a huge venue, which made for a beautiful intimate gig, but also makes you question how so few people can know of such a talented artist. Such is the way of the music industry and although I hope more and more people discover the beauty of Dan Mangan and his band, I also felt privileged for having seen him so close and personal.

Dan and his band bring their own instruments out onto the stage and a gasp and a hush descends over the audience. This is an audience of dedicated fans and it’s nice to see a musician interact so closely with those who clearly love his work. Playing for over an hour and a half, he shyly speaks and tells stories throughout the set and it’s hard to pinpoint and highlight songs when so many of them are so heartfelt and personal. His story telling in speech and song drags you in, makes you feel vulnerable and maybe a little uncomfortable but the sound is so warm it envelopes you, comforts you and Dan’s vocals embrace you at the same time. The band are clearly incredible musicians, very in tune with their instruments and each other, it’s clear they love what they do and play with such vigour and feeling, each song rich with sound and texture, it’s easy to get completely wrapped up in the songs and forget where you are and what day it is. The lyrics are phenomenal, heartfelt, gut wrenching and tear jerking, funny and beautiful. 'Oh Fortune,' 'Roads Regret' and 'About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All' are incredible, as perfectly strong live as they are recorded. Dan Mangan’s vocals are extraordinary, with such a strong voice he often steps back from the microphone to let the room take his sound on its own. Somehow the four piece band manage to take some complex arrangements and make them their own, simple enough to sway along to and yet complex enough to get lost in, but they don’t let you stray too far into thought, with Dan reminding the audience he is in the room by stepping off the stage and wandering into the crowd with his guitar part way through a song, playing the rest in amongst the crowd. During one of the crowd favourites; ‘Robots’ he creates one of the best sing-alongs I’ve ever experienced, hushing the band, stepping forward on the stage and slamming his hand onto the roof, screaming along with the audience “Robots need love too, they want to be loved by you”. It goes on for ages, but still doesn’t seem long enough; we could all sing those same simple lines for hours and love it.

They play thirteen songs before leaving the stage and are not gone for long before the crowd draws them back out for four more. The set ends in a way I didn’t expect and will not forget, with Dan and his band members leaving the stage with instruments in hand, making their way to the back of the room. Dan stands on the bar, his head at roof height and they play the last song ‘So Much For Everyone’ from there, completely and totally acoustic, with a little help from the audience as he teaches us to sing the backing vocals, a simple “oh, oh”; his voice is so strong he needs no amplification to fill the room and this is a moment that is etched into my memory, something that live music should be. He and his band have us entranced, holding us firmly but softly in the palms of their hands. Amazing to watch, incredible to hear and wonderful to be a part of.

Four songs into his set, Dan Mangan told a little story. He spoke of how he hoped to live his life experiencing as many goose bump inducing moments as possible. This gig gave me so, so many of them and that’s an incredibly nice way to spend a Sunday night.


  1. I have been going to see Dan at every BrisVegas gig since he first came to Brisbane, I have also seen him play on the Gold & Sunny Coasts. He is a true artist, a real vocalist and a great story teller.

    If you EVER see his name on a poster or ticket hunt him down - you will never forget it.
    My wife and I are Dan Mangan tragics - preordering all his albums and my wife has every tour shirt since he has come to Aus.

    Do yourself a favour - listen to the stories this guys tells through the form of song - you wont regret it.

  2. I too am a Dan Mangan tragic. And haven't missed a show in Melbourne since his solo tour supporting another Canadian band Elliot Brood. Both were so good that its now a given I'll be at either of their shows. Just wish they were more often than once a year!


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