Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don McLean

When approaching the bar for a drink, there are a number of things I might expect. If there's no queue, the person might smile as they see me walk up. Or they might be busy talking to a colleague, or cleaning the counter. What I don't expect is for them to call out to me: "Congratulations! You're the youngest person here!"

Yes, I was in a noticeably geriatric crowd at the Enmore on Tuesday for one of two Don McLean performances in Sydney. Ok, so some of the crowd were only in their 50-60 age bracket, but there were plenty who could easily have been on a night out from the nursing home, complete with walking sticks and a 50-something companion to lean upon the arm of. Interestingly enough, this made it a very pleasant and civilised crowd to be part of. I was writing some notes in between acts and must have dropped my pen when I thought I'd slipped it back into my bag. A lovely gentlemen from a few rows back picked it up for me and returned it with a friendly comment. For this I was grateful, as it is one of my favourite Parker pens and could easily have either been overlooked or pocketed. It was just that kind of crowd.

Don McLean is a truly talented songwriter. He is a true musician, through and through. As well as his own classics he performed a number of covers, treating us to what was clearly a "jam session" with his band. His rendition of the Beatles "In my Life" was beautiful. In betwen numbers he spoke passionately about his music, the inspiration for his songs, and topics that interest him. Don commented on the "one-chord wonders" that we hear on the radio today, and marvelled drily at how they can make music with just one chord. He's an old-school musician, mourning the talent and climate of yesteryear where his brand of music was more widely appreciated. At the same time, there is a passion in him to continue to play, to perform, to create. He is doing what he loves. The guys in his band have impressive skills - guitar, bass, drums and piano.

My favourite song by far is "Crossroads". It captures the poignancy that runs through much of McLean's songwriting. It's hard not to have a shiver run down your spine, sitting in the dark hearing those words. Other clear crowd favourites were "Vincent" and "Castles in the Air". Often, all it took was an opening chord for the audience to recognise what was coming and begin to cheer.

At the end he had the whole crowd sing along to "American Pie", and sing along we did. In case you don't remember, it's a very long song when you include all of the verses. I know most of them, thanks to the hours I spent listening to my Dad's Don McLean album as a little girl. That's what brought me here. When I first saw the show advertised I emailed my husband immediately to buy me a ticket (being tapped out at the time). Honestly, I had barely realised that Don McLean was still alive, let alone touring. He's a blast from the past.

When Don and the band departed the stage the audience continued clapping - there would have been a standing ovation, however unfortunately most of the audience struggle with standing at the best of times, and by now it was well after bedtime. Still, they clapped on, and were rewarded by the boys returning for one last number. They appeared to be extremely tired. But happy to be there.

All in all, a memorable night out, and I'm very glad to be able to say that I've seen Don McLean perform live.

Who: Don McLean
Where: Enmore Theatre

Did you know? Don McLean is the inspiration behind the song "Killing Me Softly", ultimately made famous by Roberta Flack. He is the musician whose performance inspired such feeling.

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