Dan Mangan at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto – Gig review and photos

April 23, 2010

Gig/Concert: Dan Mangan w/ Aidan Knight
Venue: Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date: 22 April 2010
In One Word: Intimate

Dan Mangan at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, 22 April 2010 - photo by Brian Banks, Music Vice

The ‘shoe was packed tonight and the lights were shining bright, and perhaps this is the reason why on stage Aidan Knight cut the figure of a helpless animal caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. Luckily for this young buck he had a very forgiving audience who managed to serve enough smatterings of sympathetic applause to help him avoid a head-on collision with total failure, but only just. Knight escaped with his life but his set can be considered nothing more than a complete write-off.

There was no fluidity to anything, a lot of fluffing about while he tuned his guitar and a whole lot of rambling introductions, the most inane of which being some drivel about why he doesn’t like bok choy, while in another instance Knight said “this song’s about chicks… about girls”. The only thing that he did manage to express with any real authority was his love for Dan Mangan, but this was more than just a passing sentence and became another brutally awkward moment. No surprises then that there was a lack of fluidity and confidence in the music too – at one moment he seemed to end a song, then it was quiet and suddenly so loud as he started up again with some kind of guitar solo, which was actually interesting for a second but only because of the volume, and then seemingly he returned to the same song. Or maybe it was a new song, I have no idea, it was hard to follow as there was no flow. That song, like his entire performance was so stop-start that it was more like watching a practice session than an actual gig. Knight seemed to finally settle into some sort of groove for the last couple of songs but I’d long since given up; a weak set that lacked impact, with songs being forgotten as quick as I heard them.

After a fifteen minute changeover this show was transformed from a high-school concert to something much more like a proper gig, with Vancouver, BC’s Dan Mangan taking to The Horseshoe stage for the first time in his career and playing a set worthy of this venue’s self-proclaimed ‘Legendary’ status. It was fitting that Mangan opened with a song called “Sold” because the capacity crowd inside the ‘shoe were immediately sold by Mangan, who with a cheerful smile and some funny little gags – (what do you call a dog with no legs and metal balls? Sparky) – managed to hold down a real connection with the audience in what became a fun and enjoyable show. The crowd participation at this show was fantastic and one of the earlier highlights was the perfectly timed backing vocals provided by some girls in the crowd who sung ‘are we cool now’ during “The Indie Queens Are Waiting” – the first time they sung this was in a brief pause, beating Mangan to the punch, and it was a great moment that raised smiles on everyone, Mangan included, and when the time came for the next stanza of ‘are we cool now’, a lot more ladies had joined in, and maybe the odd gent too.

Dan Mangan was backed for most of his songs by a band, though the number of people on stage varied with each song, with the most regular mainstay being a double-bassist who provided some deft and subtle sonic accents. Mangan’s playing on his acoustic guitar is nothing special but it serves its purpose, with the real talent here being the songwriting and the way in which they are delivered by their creator with ample passion, together with disarming humour and humility. The lyrics aren’t overly poetic or complicated but rich with imagery. One of my favourites from his set was “Road Regrets”, a song which can be considered both a tale about the hard side of being a touring musician as well as being a metaphor for the struggles on the road of life itself – sure, songs like this have been done thousands of times before but it’s a good, honest song. For “Road Regrets” there was also some more great backing from the crowd who joined in for the chorus of ‘its a shame, it’s a crying shame’.

Mangan worked up a sweat under the hot lamps of The Horseshoe, and he kept on giving a bit more and a bit more, spurred on by the warmth and encouragement of the crowd.  Mangan made a brief exit to the side of the stage when his set came to an end but was quickly back up on stage and finishing a much needed bottle of water before inviting his band and Aidan Knight to join him for the encore. Knight seemed a lot more assured at the microphone when he had Mangan to his side, and it very much seemed like Knight was the pupil and Mangan his mentor. Mangan had returned the praise afforded to him by his touring partner, although without all the awkward gushing. Knight seems like a nice enough kid and perhaps tonight’s show will prove to be a steep part of his learning curve as a gigging musician.

The crowd had been great all night and were transformed by Mangan into a choir for the finale of “So Much For Everyone”, oohing in harmony at the desired moment. Dan Mangan breached that invisible line between the stage and audience with what was a  fully intimate gig, and it was a great end when he stepped into the edge of the crowd for a memorable send-off.

© Brian Banks, Music Vice

Pictures of Dan Mangan at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto:

Related links:
Aidan Knight – Official Website
Dan Mangan – Official Website

Brian Banks

Editor and Founder, Music Vice Magazine. Writer. Photographer. Poet. From Scotland. Not Ireland. Proudly based in Toronto, Canada. Rock N' Roll Don't Pay The Rent... 

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7 Responses to Dan Mangan at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto – Gig review and photos

  1. Jen on April 23, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Mangan is brilliant, proud he is Canadian!!

    <3 the top pic

  2. Don on April 24, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Blistering review of Aidan Knight’s set there Mr. Banks. Hopefully you might catch him again on another gig. I see he is sitting at #5 on CBC Radio R30 chart this week. Hope you might take a listen to the artists album Versicolour and give that a review also. Here is the link to the track (Fighting against your lungs) on CBC Radio 3
    I would be happy to send you a copy of this CD if you respond back to the above email address. Sincerely Don (Aidan’s Dad)

  3. Brian Banks on April 26, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Hey Don,
    (I’ll assume you are really Aidan’s dad…)

    Clearly I thought it was a poor set but it fell at my fingers to write some words about it and those were my thoughts. The review, as ever, is supposed to be just that and nothing more. I’ve seen friends in bands play poor gigs before and then written about it with the same kind of honesty. I love music but it doesn’t mean I’m going to nod my head to everything and pretend I like everything, and so when it comes to reviewing a show I’m not going to mince my words because music journalism is riddled with enough hype and hyperboles as it is already.

    CBC Radio 3 is a great radio station, one of the few good ones on Canadian airwaves, so congrats to Aidan for getting those plays.

    The words might be hard but I hope there aren’t any hard feelings.

    Best of luck to Aidan, and thanks for writing Don.


    Brian, Editor, Music Vice

  4. Don on April 26, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks Brian: Thanks for your prompt reply and your personal email Brian. Don

  5. nadine on April 26, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    speaking as a concert-goer at aidan and dan’s kingston show
    i thought aidan’s set (like dan’s) was absolutely fantastic and he showed genuine honesty in his interactions post-show.
    i am sorry to hear you couldn’t appreciate.

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