I first became aware of Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Mangan a few months back, around the release of ‘Mouthpiece’, taken from his new album ‘Club Meds.’ Along with Blacksmith, his band of merry men, Dan Mangan plays captivating bluesy, indie folk rock tracks that often dabble in electronica. Delving further and discovering ‘Vessel’, the first single from the new album, was enough to give me a good feeling about this guy, and it came as no surprise that he’s been the recipient of two JUNO awards in his career.
With the release of Club Meds at the beginning of the year, Dan Mangan + Blacksmith have been out on the road as part of a mammoth promotional tour. This week they arrived in the UK, with Manchester being their first hitching post. So with my good lady on my arm and a spring in my step, I hopped onto the 86 with The Deaf Institute in my sights.
Running a bit behind schedule, I sadly missed the first support, but I was chuffed to catch a bit of main support Farao, who is a jack of all trades solo project. Accompanied by a drummer for the evening, the young Norwegian born singer was wigging out on her guitar when we walked into the room, and throughout the rest of her set she multi-tasked like a wizard, utilising said guitar, as well as percussion, keyboard and her own wonderful voice. Hers is a real hearty blend of infectious electronic folk, and she seemed to have the crowd under her spell.
After a brief break, the room swelled and the stage was overrun by burly, (mostly) bearded men. We’re talking real blokes here, my favourite being the guitarist. Facially like a cross between Mark Ruffalo and Nick Offerman, the bearded wonder wigged out like a mad man throughout the night and really put his back into it. Particularly impressive was his falsetto backing vocals. What a guy.
Jumping straight into ‘Offred’, the opener from the new album, Dan Mangan + Blacksmith started the crowd off slow before building to a mighty crescendo, the guitarist’s aforementioned wigging out being a particular highlight.
Another highlight was the fist-pumpingly wonderful trumpet that was utilised to great effect throughout the night, having a massive showing on the brilliant Vessel which was up next. I’m probably mistaken, but I could’ve sworn the geezer had his own pedal board for his trumpet, which is mind blowing to me…
On stage patter was pretty much scrapped for the evening, as scheduling problems had pushed back set times, so Dan announced that they were just going to try and play as much music as possible without much chit-chat. It’s like this guy knows me….After a number of winners, including Mouthpiece and ‘ Forgetery‘ from the new album, the band roared through an extended outro to ‘New Skies’, with Dan then having the displeasure of announcing that they were almost out of time. But much to the delight of the audience, he declared he had worked out a deal with the venue and would be playing a much more intimate acoustic set in the basement of The Deaf Institute to send everyone home happy. Unfortunately, a mistimed trip to the bar meant we were unable to get in, but everything that had lead up to that point had been excellent, and so we were content.
It’s always a pleasure to see a band having fun on stage, and under the tutelage of ringleader Dan Mangan, Blacksmith looked to be having a great time. Club Meds is the fourth album put out by Dan, but the first under the ‘+ Blacksmith’ banner. If tonight’s showing is anything to go by, put me down for more from these cats!