@ New Vision United Church, Hamilton
February 1, 2019
The New Vision United Church is located in the heart of downtown Hamilton and provides the perfect atmosphere for performances by singer-songwriters like Dan Mangan and his opener, Matt Holubowski. Though there is something decidedly contradictory about drinking beer in a church, New Vision United is laid out with oration and audience in mind, with pews and balconies surrounding the stage, light bathing the room in warmth, and a truly impressive pipe organ as the visual backdrop to the show.
Warming up the crowd with his easy conversation and impressive vocal range, Matt Holubowski was nothing short of exceptional, with a sense of scale and space that belied his solitary performance, but suited the confines of the church perfectly.
With Dan Mangan’s arrival on stage, the crowd sincerely applauded, clearly appreciative even before the artist strummed or sang a single note, and as the evening progressed, their loyalty remained consistent, supported by a sense of warmth in the interactions between performer and audience. The set was interesting musically, because Mangan’s 2018 album, More or Less, relies on synths and keys more than guitar, and when he played these songs, there was an almost palpable shift in tone and audience reaction. For the most part, the band succeeded in melding the songs together, providing a particularly satisfactory transition from 2018’s “Can’t Not” to fan-favourite “Road Regrets”, though the decision to follow “Pine for Cedars” with the programmed synths of “Lay Low” deflated some of the energy in the room.
Intriguingly, the standout moment of the night was special because of its intent, even though the delivery was a bit of a miss. After playing a handful of songs on his own, Mangan’s band joined him for “Fool for Waiting” to add vocal harmonies. The results were mixed, with the band missing the sweet spot on more than one occasion, but there was joy visible in all the performers and the warmth of that alone made the missed harmonies forgettable.
With a warmth and ease of connection with fans, not to mention an impressive list of beautifully-sung songs, Dan Mangan left the audience more than prepared to face the cold of a Hamilton winter night. His performance is not to be missed.