Dan Mangan live at Schubas

“Leaves, Trees, Forest”

Citing metaphors of relativity, chaos and beauty, Canadian compassion rocker Dan Mangan interrupts his set-list with a story about the intricacy of veins on a leaf. You can pay attention to the details for hours if you allow yourself, says Mangan, but the moment you realize how many leaves are on a tree and how many trees exist in a forest, the true chaos of the world surfaces and can actually act as a trigger to set you free. A simple statement from a metaphorical man is just the right amount of modesty for a crowd of 20-somethings to appreciate the deeper winds behind Mangan’s understated lyrics.

Dark cabin-wood trim, low candles and red wall curtains lined the toasty venue inside Schubas Tavern for Mangan and band this past Monday evening. Chicago is chilly this October and I spotted a pumpkin inside their tour bus, a reminder that the glamour of bands consistently on tour need their dose of holiday nostalgia, too. This band’s strong voices take away any dull or sour airspace and replace it with good feelings and recognizable comradery. This is what beautiful things do.

Although the set opened for another act (The Rural Alberta Advantage), it was solid at one hour in length. Midway through the roster Mangan played “Leaves, Trees, Forest” (listen above), a wavy and fluid picking guitar piece. Climbing mountains of pitch and falsetto harmonies then rolling back down again, this track felt atmospheric in a The Walkmen kind of way. He also played the crowd bluegrass favorite “Sold” filled with misfortune tuned lyrics and high energy progressions. A show from Dan Mangan wouldn’t be complete without also playing “Robots,” the slightly solemn turned interactive tune, singing “I spent half of my life in the customer service line / Flaws in the design / A sign of the time.” Robots do need love too, they want to be loved by you, they want to be loved by you! (listen below)

Since seeing Dan Mangan in Amsterdam last year, his sound has grown stronger and his instruments more whimsical (think Andrew Bird but scruffier). The duel-mic set-up for each vocalist added reverb to select songs, and the violins refurbished into guitars leveled more character on stage. They’re still just as likable and humble, and Chicago graciously welcomed Mangan’s subdued humor. Check out his latest 2011 release Oh Fortune for the full experience online; travel backwards from there.

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