Published Feb 01, 2019There was a polar vortex outside, but the vibe inside the Danforth was warm and snuggly for this packed Thursday night show. Dan Mangan's music has evolved a lot over the years, but the mood of his performances remains essentially unchanged: the Vancouver troubadour can still hold a crowd in the palm of his hand, and he can still turn a sad song into a life-affirming sing-along.
Before Dan took the stage, Montreal songwriter Matt Holubowski opened the night with a solo acoustic set that showed plenty of chops, but not much subtlety. His quiet tunes were full of twiddly riffs and exaggerated Devendra Banhart vocal inflections — although there was no arguing with results, since he kept the crowd rapt with charming between-song banter.
Mangan's headlining set began with the moody "Lynchpin," with three backing players helping to recreate the wonderfully wonky sonic details of the studio version from last year's More or Less. Behind them, a huge banner displayed the birds from the album cover.
The arty new tunes sounded fantastic, but it was the folksy older material that got the bigger reaction. The stans roared their approval when the slinky, experimental "Can't Not" suddenly segued into the proto-Mumford barnburner "Road Regrets," and even the relative deep cut "Pine for Cedars" was a reverent sing-along.
Mangan had a bit of a cough, and his voice wasn't quite as powerful and precise as usual. That still didn't hold him back when the band left the stage mid-set for a few unaccompanied acoustic tunes, and the aching "Basket" was particularly gripping.
Stormy late-set bangers "Troubled Mind" and "Mouthpiece" got a few heads bobbing, and a two-man horn section was a welcome addition for the final few tunes.
The biggest crowd response was saved for the encore of "Robots" and "So Much for Everyone," the latter of which Dan performed perched atop a folding chair in the middle of the Danforth. He acted as choirmaster while everyone ooh-ed the wordless refrain, with the whole room illuminated by a single massive light. When it comes to leading a big-ass sing-along, no one can hold a candle to Dan Mangan.