[A report from Ottawa correspondent Ross MacDonald. – AC]
Opening the night was rising star Aysanabee an Oji-Cree artist whose genre could probably best be described as alt-roots (I just made that up). Since releasing his debut album ‘Watin’ in November 2022 Aysanabee has received a Juno nomination, and the album was short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize (and several other prizes). Additionally his song ‘Nomads’ reached number one on the Canadian Alt-Rock charts, and he currently has a #4 song on the charts.
Aysanabee was alone on stage, with his acoustic guitar and stomp box, but his voice filled the theatre, and everyone in it. On several occasions throughout the evening many in the audience could be seen catching their breath. Many of his songs will start quietly, but then have explosive buildups and then back to soft again; it was a series of beautiful juxtapositions.
And Aysanabee is a virtuoso on the guitar. The audience was treated to several riffs rife with hammer-ons and pull-offs mixed with tapping. His PRS acoustic guitar was the perfect instrument with its full and rich sound.
Aysanabee told the crowd that after ‘Watin’ he had written 36 songs for a new album. However, with his exceptionally busy schedule he only had time to record six with Toronto producer Derek Hoffman. His new EP ‘Here And Now’ was released on 20 October, and everyone is hoping that a full-length album will be coming soon.
Aysanabee received his biggest cheers when he introduced the song ‘Somebody Else’, and he had quite a few singing along. This song is beginning to get a lot of airplay on alt-rock stations like Ottawa’s Live 88.5 It has catchy music, but with heavy lyrics about an emotional break-up.
Juno award winner Dan Mangan is not conventional, and that is a good thing. He genuinely enjoys connecting with his fans. For example, instead of bursting onto stage in typical fashion, Dan made his entrance quietly from the back of the theatre chatting with fans as he slowly made his way to the stage.
And as he set up front and centre, he spotted a local super-fan, dressed in a pumpkin costume, with a sign stating that “Robots / pumpkins need love too” and that he made Dan a hat. Dan graciously accepted the multi-coloured hat and even tried it on.
Dan started his performance solo and acoustic. For the first five songs Dan played alone; he had taken requests from his fans who texted them in. He opened with his first song of the evening, ‘Fool for Waiting’, “requested by Steven”.
Dan’s second song was requested by France, who was up front at the show, and she had to correct Dan’s pronunciation of her name. His follow-on self-deprecation did more for Franco-Anglo relations than any politician has in the past 30 years.
Those first five songs were acoustic, yet completely captivating. You could hear a pin drop between the verses. And Dan definitely has a multi-generational appeal. The crowd was made up of all ages; but many fans at the front were disproportionately young women.
Then Dan’s supporting band came out on stage, and it was time for the audience participation part of the show. For the song ‘Lynchpin’, Dan split the audience into two halves, assigning two singing notes to each half of the audience. Remarkably it worked very well with everyone doing their part when given the appropriate hand signals.
Between every song Dan continued to chat with the audience. It was far more than just a musical concert, it was like an evening with a good friend. Although there was a serious conversation as Dan spoke of the perils of depression when introducing ‘In Your Corner (For Scott Hutchison)’. Scott was a Scottish musician who fell victim to depression five years ago.
When Dan started playing his single ‘Robots’ he invited the aforementioned fan Mike up on stage with him. Together they sang the hit song, pumpkin costume and all. It was befitting a few days before Halloween.
Dan closed out the concert, as he often does, by going right into the middle of the audience to perform his last two songs encircled by his fans. With lights on his guitar and mic boom, Dan sang ‘All My People’ and ‘So Much For Everyone’ with everyone’s help. Such a beautiful way to finish off the evening.
Dan Mangan: lead vocals and acoustic guitar
Mike O’Brien: guitar and backing vocals
Jason Haberman: bass and backing vocals
Don Kerr: drums and backing vocals