It’s rather incredible to think that it’s been 40 years since Don McLean’s American Pie was released on the public, instantly becoming one of the iconic songs of the 1970s and coining the phrase, “the day the music died”. I first saw McLean play live in 1976 when I was at University. He was an engaging storyteller who quickly connected with his audience. In 2011, not much has changed. At age 65 Don McLean is still enjoying his time playing and singing his songs and others’.
The show got underway with a version of Buddy Holly’s Everyday, followed by two tunes from my favourite McLean album, 1974’s Homeless Brother. Don played La La Love You and the album’s title track. The band sounded a bit shaky at the beginning…monitor problems?…but gelled for Homeless Brother. Next came the first of McLean’s well-known songs, And I Love You So. He dipped back into Homeless Brother again for Wonderful Baby and then a couple of lesser-known gems from the American Pie album, Crossroads (not the Robert Johnson song) and Winterwood. After If We Try, Don was clearly enjoying himself, announcing that he was, “going to sing a lot of extra songs”. And he did. He dug up a few old chestnuts like Hank Cochran’s He’s Got You, The Very Thought Of You, Singin’ The Blues and John Lennon’s In My Life.
But it was McLean’s own tunes that made the evening special. Vincent is still as touching as ever and American Pie had everyone standing and singing. Don made a little speech about being asked if he ever got tired of singing his hits. “No”, he said, “just tired of being asked that question”. Then, to prove the point, not only did he perform a full version of American Pie, but when it was over, he started it again. No one complained.
For the encore we heard a slightly off-key Travelin’ Man, the Ricky Nelson number, and then a shimmering Castles In The Air. McLean was accompanied by four veteran Nashville players…Tony Migliori (keyboards), Jerry Kroon (drums), Ralph Childs (bass) and Carl “Vip” Vipperman (guitar). But it was McLean’s genuine love of music and his appreciation for the audience that came through the strongest, making this one of the concert highlights of the year.
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