Friday, 13 November 2009

Dan Mangan @ Brighton Sanctuary Cafe

Having arrived jet lagged in the UK from a show in the middle-east, Dan Mangan's travels from his home town of Vancouver in Canada have given him a broad cultural perspective which he reflects on as he performs. From the craziness of the UK news where a Prime Minister is vilified for a spelling mistake whilst X Factor gossip holds the front page, to his experiences of the family nights out in shopping malls and heavy censorship he experienced in Dubai, Mangan is obviously a keen observer of worldwide differences. Even when he sings of his home city on Pine For Cedars he stops the song halfway through to explain a lyric about a house that someone might win in the hospital lottery, aware that a UK audience wouldn’t know what such a hospital lottery was.

Despite cultural differences, music is often universal, and certainly this Canadian has no difficulties connecting with the small group of people who have come to see him play in Brighton. In Canada Dan Mangan may have won awards for his second album Nice, Nice, Very, Nice but with the recording not released in the UK till around the middle of next year his profile on this side of the pond is as small as the tiny candle lit basement below a vegetarian cafĂ© in which he plays. The cool intimacy of the venue suits Mangan perfectly though. His friendly intelligent chatter between songs, the warmth of his gravel like vocal and his personal homespun lyrics make the audience feel as they are part of his extended family. It is hard not to be moved when someone plays a beautiful passionate ode from the perspective of his grandfather - “Won’t you take my cane and hold my hand, you’re holding on to all I have, just a basket full of memories and I am losing more each day it seems,” he sings as he builds to a heady climax during Basket.

Mangan has an eye for the intricacies of life and a knack of being able to form them into subtle wonderful songs, from the “coffee sweats” of Road Regrets to the puzzle of the failing memories on the aforementioned Basket - “I’ve got the sides and all the corners - but there’s a space.” It is these moments of thoughtful realism that make Mangan particularly engaging. With just an acoustic guitar and a collection of very human, very sympathetic songs he delights those who have come to see him play and by the end manages to get everyone singing the silly, but strangely touching words “Robots need love too, they want to be loved by you,” over and over again.

Personable and cheerfully beautiful, Dan Mangan is a singer songwriter with a lot going for him. Nice, nice, very nice indeed.

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