Derby concert – fan reviews

Name: Neil Wyatt
Show: Derby
Review: Don McLeans 31st UK Anniversary Tour

At the Assembly Rooms Derby on the 14th May 2003

For those short of reading time, here are a few points of the evening before going into detail:

* A program was available priced at 5 each and Don was available at the end of the show to sign them, it seemed that most of the audience took this opportunity judging by the length of the queue after the show.

*Regarding the fashion report: Don was wearing a plain black long sleeved shirt and black jeans; sorry I couldnt see his footwear.

*Don was in very good voice and hit all the right notes in a concert divided into two parts, the first part lasting around fifty minutes and the second part a shade over an hour, so good value all round. 25 numbers performed in total.

*The sound quality of the venue was very good indeed save for a couple of minor feed backs, but nothing serious, and I would estimate the floor space was around 95% full; however the side balconies perhaps only 50% (see the floor plan for details.)

The band was the same proficient four musicians Don has performed with for the past few years (although Tony has been supporting Don on stage the longest) with the addition of new guitarist to this set up, Kery Marx. For the guitar buffs Kery looked to be playing a sunburst Fender Stratocaster while Pat has swapped his Gibson Les Paul for a dark red Fender Telecaster with a white scratch board.

The performance started at just a couple of minutes past the scheduled 8pm start with the announcement of: After the performance Mr McLean will sign programs in the foyer. Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome Don McLean.  Don then came onto the stage, plugged in his Martin guitar and started the performance with what now seems to be the regular opener – Buddy Holly song Maybe Baby (I wonder what happened to Magdalene Lane and Its Just the Sun?).  Next was Everyday, both of these songs were sung with lots of energy, so the scene was set for a super show. Winterwood was followed by a perfect And I Love You So, I dont think Ive been to a Don McLean concert where this song has not been performed which gives strength to the saying practice makes perfect. Apart from the proverbial end of show cheers, this song got the loudest cheer of the night. Don said You are a very good audience and its great because this is a good hall with great sound. Don went on to introduce the band, on the piano Tony Migliore,  Kery Marks on the guitar, Ralph Childs on the bass, Pat Severs on the guitar and Jerry Kroon on the drums. Don said that doing this for quit a few years was still fun. Accompanied only by piano, Don went on to sing The Very Thought of You and Crossroads. Back to the band with La La La La Love You with Don hitting all the right notes an octave or two up: magic!

Then it was straight into Jerusalem followed by the regular sing along This Little Light of Mine which was also the bands opportunity to shine; each individually giving a solo. Yes that magic word, “SOLO.” A slow country song called Promise to Remember followed which I enjoyed, though it was a shame about a minor sound feedback though nothing serious.  This song suited the fender sound coming from the two guitars. This sound could only be improved by a single 000-28 amplified straight through an open microphone! Next was Crying, again, all the high notes reached and it was great to see Don pick the intro on his guitar. It makes such a difference to the feeling of the whole song. In Florida last January Don strummed his way through the intro; not the same thing at all. The first half finished with Tulsa Time.

The second period opened with the old Elvis number Little Sister  followed by Lotta Lovin.’ From here it was straight into a museum (the old ones are the best..bum bum) In a Museum. The next song I only heard for the first time last January (03) Which begins with the words Have you Seen Me. It is very guitar dominated, perhaps a little heavy and gives reference to a lot of conflict areas in the world. Maybe this is Dons way of keeping the notion of his song the Grave alive and also Dylans Masters of War comes to mind here also (see the Solo double album). Keeping on the heavy theme I thought the next number for a surprise was going to be the Stones’ Satisfaction, but in fact it was about Princess Diana. Diana Run? The man who shouted American Pie early in the show finally got his wish. Sometimes I feel that this is all that a large proportion of contemporary audiences want to hear and yet Don has so many songs to his credit Im certain many of us would rather hear for a change. Now wasnt it Don who said way back when that Ill continue to go and do what I want, Ill let the music take me where it wants to – Its never let me down. (The Songs of Don McLean Vol 1. 1972 P 112)  As is usual of recent years, Don played an extra portion of Pie to keep the audience happy and gained an appropriate loud cheer at the end of what must have been a near ten minute song. Now thats what I call stamina.

At this point a chair placed at the front of the stage and Don continued seated. Vincent was performed next which I know would have pleased the lady I was talking to prior to the show immensely. Then into Drop E mode for Castles in the Air, this was perfect except that the drumming, I felt, was far too heavy for this number. One of my highlights of the evening came next as Don performed Empty Chairs solo. Im certain the old time McLeanies appreciated that one; I certainly did. Accompanied only by Ralph on Bass Don played his guitar Flat Picking instrumental Ive heard him do once or twice before. The show finished as it began with an Elvis number Thats alright Mama to a hand clapping audience. The band played Don out but the hand clapping continued and got faster until Don came back on stage. Don said something like who says British audiences are tough! (Don remained standing.) We were then treated to that old Hank Williams classic Love Sick Blues – yaho^oooooooo! Even after almost an hour of continuous singing Don still managed all the right notes on this difficult song to sing. Not a bum note in the whole setFantastic.

The performance ended with Stardust and that concluded a superb show and great value, what more could one ask for? The only thing to do now was to ask Don if he would sign my banjo as well as my poster and program. Oh, and also have a chat with Dejay.

I decided to let everyone else get their things signed first, as I didnt want to hold things up with me carrying a banjo about. Don saw me waiting with my banjo and called me the banjo man: imagine that! Don calling me the banjo man, Im honoured, glad he didnt ask me to play it though or he may have taken those words back! Before Don left I told him that I really enjoyed the solo Empty Chairs – just like old times; to which Don said, Were going to do more of that Solo stuff. Cant wait! Fantastic Evening, we must do it again.

Name: Dejay
Show: Derby
Review: Don and his band took this show off to a brilliant start and did indeed appear to be surprised by the very enthusiastic reception as he greeted the audience. This being the first gig of the tour, it seemed that Don had, over the last 3 years, almost forgotten the way in which British audiences still, after over 30 years of performing, receive him as an old friend dropping by and not just as a performing artist. He gave the impression that the prime motive for this tour was to come and see us, rather than just to let us see him perform. If any ’70s Don-fans had assumed that much of the intimacy and warmth that he radiated from the stage during those days had dwindled due to the band being with him, they would have been proved wrong within the first 5 seconds of this show. There were no empty seats up front as I can recall and the rear of the theatre was filled to roughly 80 percent. Derby is geographically isolated and rural in comparison to somewhere like Manchester, which unfortunately wasn’t included this time, so that could be part of the reason for those empty seats (if it had been in Manchester, I’m sure it would have been a sell-out). Don’s voice was in top form as usual, which he repeatedly proves by including songs like “Crying” and “Lovesick Blues”. It’s just a pity that it was often drowned out by Pat Severs’ rather piercing, though excellent lead guitar playing.

Set List:
Maybe Baby
And I love You So (the best version I’ve ever heard!)
The Very Thought Of You
Crossroads (Tony really shined on this one)
La La Love You (would have preferred Tangled or Homeless Brother from that album)
This Little Light (a real gem for getting the audience in the mood)
Promise To Remember
Crying (how does he do it?!)
Tulsa Time / Deep In The Heart of Texas
(20 minute break)
Little Sister (don’t know why he seems to never miss that one)
Lotta Lovin’
In A Museum
Have You Seen Me (sound engineer should have been sent home at this point – lead guitar much too loud!)
Run Diana Run (Nice melody, a bit like “Headroom”, but couldn’t hear the lyrics for the lead guitar)
AP (I needed a drink, a shower and a lie-down afterwards – simply brilliant!)
Vincent (need I say more..?)
Castles In The Air (I just love that bassy “dropped D” on this guitar – and Don’s guitar-playing is a symphony on its own in this song)
Empty Chairs ( the nucleus of the whole show in my opinion – killed us all very softly!)
Flat-picking (Doc Watson would have paid for his Guinness all night and Chet would have made him a CGP – Stunning!)
That’s Alright Mama
Lovesick Blues (nobody does it like our Don!)

Don then came out to the foyer to sign programs…and one or two CD covers:) accompanied by a well-earned pint of Guinness. Thank you Don, for what was yet another unforgettable experience. It’s good to know that we can still go to concerts like yours and listen to real music and by doing so, for a little while, escape the non-melodious humbug that has been invading our lives these past years. Please come back soon!!!

Other photos supplied by Dejay:

Name: Kathleen Robinson
Show: Derby
Review: Not a full review – but just to say we had wonderful night. I wish the concert could have been longer and included all my favourites. I thought it was a very good venue, with a good view of the stage. Only complaint? The ice cream I bought in the interval was too hard to eat!

Name: Christopher Clark
Show: Derby Assembly Rooms
Just enjoyed a brilliant evening at Derby Assembly rooms watching Don Mclean and his excellent Musicians in concert. Fantastic entertainment. The best evening out I have had for a very long time. Thanks.

Name: Wendy Haynes
Show: Derby Assembly Rooms
Review: I was fortunate to get the first two seats sold for this performance – being at the booking office the morning it opened.  This meant we could have great seats on the front row!  It was an excellent experience.  Don is such a charismatic singer – at very very best when delivering his own words and music. The mix and range of songs, including my particular favourites, gave total enjoyment.  Thanks also to the everyone in the band for their contribution. Don’s music, words and delivery are unique and, in my opinion, cannot be bettered by any other performer.
Name: Mike Armitt
Show: Derby 14th May 2003
Review: What a fantastic evening’s entertainment!
No one could have been disappointed whatsoever – considering today’s manufactured music it was great to have a singalong with ‘American Pie’ and ‘This Little Light of Mine’. Mind you I can remember in the 50s and 60s parents saying, “This rock ‘n’ roll stuff won’t last!!”
The ‘voice’ is as good as it was, even though the ‘legs’ are not what they used to be!
Next time Don comes can include Gordon Lightfoot’s “If I Could Read Your Mind,” as he sings it in a different style to Gordon’s but just as well.
Cheers and best wishes.
Name: anne carter
Show: assembly rooms derby may 14th
Review: A fine mixture of songs & styles including Buddy Holly, Elvis, country, ballads & rock. Thrilled that my personal favourite “Crossroads” was played early on with a brilliant Tony Migliore on piano. A central, front row seat gave superb views and sound from the whole band. We’re all mostly 30 years older Don, so understand your need to sit down a while!!

Years ago, I decided that “Crossroads” will be played at my funeral for friends to mourn, but they’ll rock on out of the crematoreum to “American Pie!”
Name: Geoff
Show: Derby
Don McLean put on a great show here in Derby last night. He performed for 2.5 hours (including a 20 minute break). The show was really in 3 parts. He started with two Buddy Holly songs (Maybe Baby and Everyday) and went through 55 mins of material including And I Love You So, La La Love You, Jerusalem, Crying, Tulsa Time, Deep in the Heart of Texas, The Very Thought of You, Winterwood and Crossroads. He also did a slow, country song that he said was only 9 months olds. The second half was pure rock and roll, starting with Little Sister (?), Lotta Lovin and including two new songs In The Museum and Death by Photography. He sang Have You Seen Me and quickly moved into an extended version of American Pie. At this point the second half looked slightly perfunctory with non of the usual chat between songs and no solo guitar work. However, anyone expecting to be disappointed were soon put right as Don sat down and sang Vincent, Castles in the Air and Empty Chairs. He did some great guitar picking with Ralph Childs and finished with That’s Alright. A standing ovation and lots of feet stamping later, Don re-emerged on stage to do Lovesick Blues and Stardust as his encore. Another standing ovation. This was a near full house (only a few cheaper, side seats left) and a loud and enthusiastic crowd. It seemed Don was slightly surprised (but delighted) by his reception. This was a very memorable concert, especialliy for the people who’d made requests, all of which seemed to be honoured. The band was terrific. It’s great to see Don in this musical setting.

After the show Don spent 40 minutes signing autographs and posing for photos. A word for the site producer and author of the souvenir brochure – brilliant work, an enthralling account of Don’s career. Also on sale (for order) was the Starry Starry Night CD but no children’s album. Don looked fantastic and listening to his voice it was hard to believe we were sitting there in 2003, not 1973. I now plan to snap up tickets for my other’local’ shows in Birmingham, Leicester and Northampton. Thanks Don for a magic evening.

Name: Tom Stuart
Show: Derby 14th May

Review: If Don McLean was disappointed at the cancellation of the London date then he did not show it in a set lasting nearly 2 hours which gave the Derby audience a fantastic showcase of his musical and creative talents.

All the hits were there including his most enthusiastic rendition of American Pie that I have heard in following his concerts for 30 years. A funky instrumental bridge was included in ” Pie” with an extra helping of verse one after the song was finished to allow for further crowd participation!

“Jerusalem” which is ever topical was delivered with passion and vigour and Don’s voice on “Crying” took me back twenty years. Two new songs “In a Museum” and “Run Diana Run” were vintage Mclean and I look forward to the studio versions.

For the first time ever in concert I watched Don take a seat, as befits his golden mellowness, to deliver “Vincent” and “Castles” in the Air” and his flat picking bluegrass instrumental with bassist Ralph Childs rolled back the years to when he enthralled us with a banjo. Don Mclean is back and is effortlessly the  class act as he ever was. Don’t miss this tour!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.