Given Dan Mangan’s ever increasing word-of-mouth popularity it’s something of a surprise to see him playing the relatively small confines of the Hope, but less of a surprise that the show is a sell out, particularly given the talents of his supporting cast for the evening, Brightonian cellist Abi Wade and the excellent Zeus.
Wade, a late addition to the bill, has started to make a name for herself in recent months, through a combination of relentless gigging and undeniable talent, creating some interesting XX-styled songs through a combination of plucked cello and some Seasick Steve box-created rhythms. She certainly goes down well with the local crowd, playing a relatively lengthy but compelling set.
Last seen in Brighton playing a storming pair of Great Escape sets in 2010, Zeus are one of the undiscovered gems of the last couple of years. Ostensibly a collection of highly skilled session men who found a shared love of ’70s style pop-prog and uncannily manage to create a tightly constructed but expansive blend of Queen style vocals and Genesis style accessible rock-pop, they go down a storm with the crowd, delivering a set including debut album standouts “Kindergarten” and “River By the Garden” and the rocking “Are You Gonna Waste My Time?” and “Bright Brown Opus” from new album “Busting Visions”. Long time cover version favourite “That’s All” gets a spin too in a concise set that shows off the band’s live skills to maximum effect.
By the time Mangan emerges on stage, minus his band, who just about make it through the crowd in time to join in, the venue is packed, and the singer quickly establishes some momentum with new album highlight “Post War Blues” a song that strongly recalls the kind of anthemic folkishness of Mumford and Sons. Indeed, Mangan’s voice switches variously from a decidedly Mumfordian boom to something more Condonesque on “How Darwinian”. Mangan is a bit of a musical shapeshifter, his sound evolving across his three albums, broadening the musical palette considerably on last year’s “Oh Fortune”. Playing a good deal of that new album, there is still room for some old favourites like “Robots” although the excellent “Road Regrets” doesn’t get a test drive tonight. Mangan is a likeable performer, perhaps lacking the lyrical gifts of a Fionn Regan or the sheer expansiveness of the aforementioned Mumford, but with a strong voice and a definite gift for penning a hit, his star looks set to rise further and a combination of his diverse new material and a raft of evergreen favourites like “Sold” prove as beguiling as ever and send the loyal fanbase home happy.