Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 10, 2009

Don McLean in Concert

Mahaiwe, Great Barrington, MA
August 9, 2009
by Eric Sutter

Far from fading away, singer-songwriter Don McLean lifted spirits and touched souls with a fun concert filled with magic. He began with a triplet of Buddy Holly Songs, "Well Alright," "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" and "Peggy Sue Got Married" which put the audience at ease. His warmth and humor conveyed real love. His versatile songwriting skills were evident as he shifted styles from the folk ballad of "Homeless Brother" to the more pop oriented classics "Empty Chairs" and "Castles In the Air." In 2004, McLean was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

He changed musical direction once again to a country groove with Don Williams' "Tulsa Time" and a yodeling "Deep In the Heart of Texas," which featured a searing hot electric guitar solo. Marty Robbins' "Singing the Blues" featured a melodic piano solo. A highpoint was McLean's cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying" in which he can still hit those amazing vocal highs.

The band aptly accompanied McLean and his acoustic guitar on the spiritually aware "Jerusalem." His incredible fingerstyle guitar work and the words of "And I Love You So" were heart rendering. "Crossroads" featured the singer's delicate guitar style with piano accompaniement. His ever popular "Vincent" was given a makeover with the inclusion of synthesizer to gave the song an orchestral appeal. Incidentally, McLean shared the story that "Vincent" was written in nearby Stockbridge when he was first starting to perform. With the exception of a few minor breaks in his voice, his classic 8 1/2 minute folk-pop #1 hit "American Pie" sounded as wonderful as it did in 1971; the audience sang along at times. He kicked out a cover of Elvis' "I Gotta Know" with resounding audience response.

Whatever McLean did, people loved it. He encored with down in your soul fingerstyle guitar blues and a little electric slide on the side -- not bad for a 64 year old Hudson River troubadour.