Posted by Jimmy Horrigan.
Reviewed on 2nd December 2012.
Live at Brudenell Social Club on Monday, 26th November 2012
Late to the party: that was me with Dan Mangan's music. I was bowled over by "Oh Fortune!" towards the end of last year but beyond that my knowledge of his music was embarrassingly limited. I knew I knew the name but couldn't remember hearing anything by him up till then. I've made up for lost time since of course and his back catalogue features frequently in my playlists. I know great music when I hear it - no matter how belatedly - and the same can be said for a typically eclectic bunch that made up the audience for Monday's gig. Not only should Brudenell continue to win the plaudits it does for being a great venue but the people that go to gigs there deserve some credit too. Every time Mrs Pickle and I go to a gig there we get chatting to new people; nice people; like-minded, lovely people. I don't notice it as much anywhere else in Leeds so if you were there on Monday or you've ever been to a gig at the Brudenell, raise a glass to you when you have a minute spare: you jolly well rock.
Jason Collett got things off to a wonderfully warm and dry witted start with a generous ten song set drawing from both his last album "Reckon" and earlier releases, "Here's to being here", "Rat A Tat Tat" and "Pony Tricks". Through the set he offered his take on the modern world and embroidered proceedings in between songs by sharing some of the thoughts and experiences behind the music; fashion disasters, "supertokes" (look it up), Noam Chomsky and the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations all played their part. His naturally chilled but nonetheless commanding banter reminded me a lot of the late Morphine frontman Mark Sandman and was the cherry on top of a brilliant acoustic performance. You could tell the crowd, whether they knew the songs or not, were hanging on every word as the room fell silent save for respectful chuckles and praising applause in all the right places.
Rather unceremoniously, Dan Mangan and the super-talented chaps that drop their other projects to tour and record with him, took to the stage. I lost count how many songs they played in all and the setlist below is probably missing the odd title but that's more down to how quickly time passed and how much fun we were having to the point I didn't manage to write everything down in my trusty Woolworth's notepad. (I really do need a better system but at least I remembered a pen so it's a start!) What I do know is it was around a dozen songs in before I moved for the first time and that was just to stand up to join in as Dan led the crowd in a sing-a-long performance of "Robots".
Dan kicked things off with the rather brilliant "We want to be pleasantly surprised not expectedly let down" and the crowd settled instantly for an almost overwhelmingly virtuosic set. The range of styles was effortless and the perfectly assembled moves from big full numbers to ballads left me grinning incessantly from the first note to the last. The warmth in Dan's vocals and the sincerity this conveys through his lyrics is one thing but for me it's that fuzz - almost grit - at the back of his voice in the more vitriolic moments that reveals a man with something to say and lots of different ways of doing just that. I think I got that more clearly at Monday's gig than I had done before from listening to the records. There are just some qualities a live performance can deliver that even the best production doesn't quite manage I guess.
I won't do a blow by blow run down of every song performed - there's a setlist below for that of course - but for me the personal highlights were "Robots" (who doesn't love a good sing song?!?), "Leaves, Trees, Forest" (the song that made me want to be there and the reason I reviewed "Oh Fortune" last year), "Post-Was Blues" (just brilliant - peaks and troughs of sound and captivatingly atmospheric) and "Starts with them, ends with us". All this contrasts with the part of the set where the (incredible) band took a breather and left Dan to work through some older picks; just him and his guitar. Mrs Pickle actually said that was her favourite part of the night (she's a sucker for one man and his guitar) but I think she just prefers things that bit quieter than I can cope with. That or her hearing is better - I'm not sure. Anyway, that mini-solo set was the perfect (almost) end to the night before the band came back out for a little bit more. And then the night was over. Well almost.
I had to pass up the chance of an official interview with Dan (curse that day job of mine!) but I did still manage a quick chat with him after the gig. For once I did ask beforehand this wasn't just my usual cheek at play. Now despite him being a thoroughly smashing chap who I could easily have talked to about philosophy, personal enrichment and Kurt Vonnegut books till the cows came home, I was conscious of other fans desperate to chat to him so I (hope I) kept it quick.
I like the ideology behind his songs: that the world could be a better place if everybody gave more to and expected less from one another. Given the literary devices in his lyrics and knowing he shares my passion for Vonnegut's words I wanted to know if he sees his music almost like writing books, not just in terms of producing a body of work or to entertain but as a way to help him grow and develop within and from that very work. His response was enthusiastic, humble and every bit as considered as I expected it would be. He thrives on literature, learning and the fact we all have a natural gift to absorb ideas and gain from our experiences and the people that we encounter along the way. "We're all sponges", basically. What a guy! Next time I promised him a cup of tea in return for a proper interview so more on that when we're lucky enough for Dan to come back to Leeds. Come on Nathan, get him booked!
Jason Collett set list: Not over you, Rave on sad songs, We all lose one another, Almost Summer, Miss Canada, Talk Radio, Black diamond girl, My daddy was a rock 'n roller, Love is a dirty word, Blue sky.
Dan Mangan setlist: We want to be pleasantly surprised not expectedly let down, About as much help as you can be without being any help at all, Oh Fortune, Sold, Leaves Trees Forest, If I am dead, Post-war blues, Basket, Starts with them ends with us, Don't Listen, Robots (featuring the on the night Brudenell participation while Dan did a walkabout choir), Rows of Houses, Jeopardy, The indie queens are waiting, Et les mots croises, Whistleblower, (one more, sorry I was having far too much fun by now!).
Oh, I've just found an old NME giveaway in the collection, "Canadian Blast: The sound of the New Canada Scene" (May 2007), which featured "Journal of a narcoleptic". So it goes.