It's a great gift to put on a great live show. Firstly you need to be armed with an arsenal of great songs and then have the ability to display them in the live arena. But it's even a greater gift to be able to make every one in the room feel like a vital part of the puzzle. To make every person feel part of a community. To feel like the songs are there for you. You need energy, love and passion to pull this off. Dan Mangan has it. I doubt I have ever seen a more gregarious, caring and sharing performer. He puts every inch of his soul into his performance and then some more. But it was more then just effort and energy. It was communication and a direct response to all in the room. It was gathering us up in his arms and carrying us for an hour and a half of pure fun and emotional clarity.
I really only climbed on the Mangan bandwagon in 2011. I think it was when I first heard "How Darwinian" (so good last night) and wondered why had I been sleeping on him. I soon bought "Oh Fortune" and fell in love with its deep humanity and generous soul. I soon sought out his first two albums and came to the opinion that the man was on a definite upward curve. First album was good, second album was better and the third album was gold. Makes me excited for album number four. But what of Friday night in Newtown. Well firstly Dan has a great, great band. Gord Grdina was a powerhouse on guitar. Kenton Loewen was as good as a drummer that I have seen. A powerhouse too, but also supremely capable of subtle and elegant moments. They were rounded out superbly by bassist John Walsh. They all came together perfectly on opener "About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All" which also signaled that this night wouldn't just be quiet and acoustic. It would be ferocious. A clear intent of heart and fury. Ably demonstrated further on rockers like "Post-War Blues", "Sold" and "Some People". There were times for quiet moments too though. A huge standout was when Dan went solo to serenade us with "Basket". I'm pretty sure there were a few tears shed during this great song. It also showcased Mangan's strengths as a vocalist. His voice is earthy and soulful, masculine and deeply touching. Closing song "Jeopardy" was a perfect way to show all of this off. Frankly that would have been enough. Satisfaction guaranteed. But the encore took it up a notch. We had the wonderful Sydney singer Gabby Huber join Dan on stage for "The Indie Queens Are Waiting", which was followed by the customary crowd singalong in "Robots". But Dan wanted to give us more. He went unplugged, went into the crowd, stood on a chair and invited us all to sing along with "So Much For Everyone". It was precious moment, a moment that will stay with me for a long time. We all connected and quite frankly our lives are the better for it. Music, hey? It's pretty good.
About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All
Leaves, Trees, Forest
Starts With Them, Ends With Us
Rows Of Houses
Regarding Death and Dying
The Indie Queens Are Waiting
So Much For Everyone