Review: My, my, Mr “American Pie”

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DON McLean is not a physically animated performer.

Don McLean
Don McLean
It is the strength of his poetry and storytelling coupled with passion in presentation that allows him to connect so well with his audience.

And connect he did! For more than two hours, with not even the shortest interlude to take a sip of water, he commanded attention and engagement as he meandered, mostly gently, through a musical lifetime and some of the 600 or so songs he has written. Many were poignant and sad reflections of all he has observed of the world during his lengthy singer/songwriter career.

The voice may not be quite as strong now as he approaches 70 but there was never of hint of mispitching or uncertainty as he journeyed through “Winterwood”, “And I Love Her So”, “Every Day and Crying”. He is still writing and gave a delightful taste of “I Hadn’t Met You”, a blues/jazz style composition recently selected for feature in a just-released American TV series.

He was accompanied by a slick four-piece band, well versed in the nuance of every song. Often such tight bands can lapse into “cruise control” mode but not a hint of such. All players were enthused about another performance opportunity and applauded Don as wildly as the audience each time he performed solo. What a boon for concert atmosphere!

Of course, it was his 1971 breakthrough hit, “American Pie” that brought the house down (or more correctly – standing in loud ovation). I think we received a 15-minute version and an additional 15-minutes would have been welcome! Instead, the concert ended sentimentally and appropriately with the beautiful duo, “Vincent” and “Castles in the Sky”.

The Canberra Theatre was quite tightly packed; I’m sure no one left with any disappointment, just a glowing admiration for an honest and observant writer who, after early years of childhood illness then depression, now uses the power of music to urge us to make the world a better place.

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