Tunbridge Wells concert – fan reviews

Name: Sylvia Waite
Show: Tunbridge Wells
Review: Thank you for a magical evening on  18th MAy.  Despite the battle with the appalling sound system and worse lighting, Don could still deliver a master class of understated musical genius. Songs to wrench the emotions were delivered with such feeling. He commanded the silence with ‘Vincent’in an atmosphere reverential in it’s intensity. And ‘The very thought of you’ was so unexpected and beautifully sung it brought tears to my eyes and heart. I had never heard ‘If we try’ until this night but it is already my new best favourite. Please come back soon, please do some TV next time, Please more videos and can I have your children? With much love and thanks.
Name: Klaus Rolland
Show: Tunbridge Wells
After killing only two outer mirrors from other cars -because of the crazy british lefthand traffic(the people were very indulgent and friendly with me)  – we reached Royal Tunbridge Wells. To the show: After part 1 of the show my daughter said to me, the first thing she would do, is to fire the sound engineer; I was satisfied – like everytime I saw – and heard Don McLean (this was the 5th time: 1973 in Frankfurt – 2000 in London – 2001 in Dublin and Belfast). After part 2 of the concert we were both complete enthusiastic obout it. After the show I received an authograph from the artist. He said “Hi” – I said “Dankeschne” – and I was happy. A lot of anticipated joy I have for July in Roscomon/IRL. I hope I can be there.

Best wishes and greetings from Germany

Thanks to Klaus for these photos. He has sent lots more, which I’ll add to the site asap.

Name: Gill Boys
Show: Tunbridge Wells
Review: Just think for a moment and then ask yourself  what did I like 30 years ago and still like as much today? For me probably the only answer is Don McLean.  Why?  Well Ive changed a lot in 30 years but in some ways have remained constant and that for me is Don McLean, changing, evolving, developing on the one hand and yet a constant part of life on the other.

Ive lost count of how many times Ive see him in concert but each time is different and exciting.  I cant say the Assembly Rooms at Tunbridge is my favourite choice of venue, certainly sitting waiting for Don to come on
stage it felt more like sitting in sports hall.  Once he took to the stage it was like riding on the crest of a wave and I experienced every emotion before reaching the shore.  Maybe Baby, Everyday, Crying, Jerusalem,
Winterwood, Empty Chairs, Tulsa Time, Castles in the Air, American Pie, we all have our favourites, mine change from day to day. New songs, old songs but songs all delivered with passion.

There have been comments about the band being loud.  In fact the guy sitting next to me, turned to me in the interval and asked, youre obviously a big Don McLean fan? (Dont know how he worked that out! ) Does he only play rock now? What happened to his quiet songs?  Wait, I assured.

In Tunbridge Wells, we rocked, we listened with awe, we partied, and we all got up to dance, even my doubting neighbour! We enjoyed every aspect of that truly marvellous experience which is Don McLean live in concert.

Thanks Don, 30 years on and youre still better than chocolate!
Name: Gary Moore
Show: Tunbridge Wells
Review: It is always worrying when you go to see an inspirational singer/songwriter live years after you first heard his songs. Will he live up to expectations or will your vision be destroyed forever? Well, after seeing Don McLean at Tunbridge Wells I can tell you he has still got it. Although i found the backing band too loud , the songs Don played alone or accompanied by piano were, and still are, inspirational. Also to see the pleasure Don got out of playing his standards (and why not)made it better still , he really deserved his can of Guinness afterwards . Now where  did I put that guitar!
Name: James Chinaloy
Show: Tunbridge Wells 18/5/03
Review: There we all were gathered at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Rooms to listen to the music we had heard years before.  Thirty years on when Don McLean first burst onto the British music scene, he can still pack a venue, no mean feat in itself.  The concert itself is a mixture of old standards and new material, but like all fans we would have been content with the old favourites and familiar tunes.  Don’s backing musicians gave excellent support also giving them a forum to show their individual skills however, the music really came alive and captivated his audience when he reverted to his accoustic guitar and a single backing instrument.  The case in point a really sweet rendition of “Starry Starry Night”. Everybody was just waiting for the classic, with the first few chords we were all up like at a gospel meeting to put our hands together and belt out “American Pie” along with the young boy !  Don asked his audience 2 questions:- 1. What is music now ?  A: it is just a product.  2. Rhetorical question, can the old man still do it ? A: of course, long may
we hear the music.
Name: Philip Godliman
Show: Tunbridge Wells
Review: I’m afraid to say that for the first time in our lives we left a show half way through!  We’ve been fans of Don Maclean for many years and enjoyed a concert of his in Dartford some years ago.  Why did we leave? We couldn’t hear his brilliant voice and guitar playing because it was drowned out by the cacophony produced by the backing group.  It’s a great shame that such a wonderful singer songwriter has to resort to an overproduced and horrendous performance.  The only really enjoyable part of the first half of the show was when the backing group left the stage and left Don alone to perform in his traditional way.  The reason why, for example, Eva Cassidy and Nora Jones have gained such wide acclaim is because of the purity and untainted performance of their music.

We looked forward so much to the concert but were upset and disappointed because we couldn’t hear him sing – even Winter Wood and Jerusalem (2 of our favourite songs) were masacred.
Name: Ken, Frances and Debi
Show: Tunbridge Wells Sunday 18th May
Review: A faultless and brilliant concert at Tunbridge Wells last night, Sunday 18th May, ended with your song about Diana which did not do justice to your great writing talent. We hope we are not the only ones to mention this- Please do not be offended as we do love ya! Thank you for singing ‘Winterwood’ and ‘The Very Thought of You’. We are chasing you to Leicester on Sunday and would love to hear Mountains of Mourne, Bells of Rhymney, and That’s Allright Mama, with the band, as they are also superb. Also Don- where’s your banjo these days?Are you ever going to bring it out again?!Please!
Name: Lyndon Brown
Show: Tunbridge Wells
Review: Another great evening with the man who brings such a fine use of the english language and such eloquence to his songs. The highlight as ever was the most beautiful song ever written and once again I wept throughout ‘Empty Chairs’. Don said we inspired him last night and we certainly made him welcome !! However that was in return for the inspiration your songs have provided throughout my life. For them and you I am truly grateful.
Name: Neville Morley
Show: Tunbridge Wells
Review: Dear Mr. Mclean. It has been the greatest of pleasure to be enjoy a fabulous evening of your songs and music at Tunbridge Wells this last evening. Your performance has been a joy to behold and thank you and your musicians for allowing us to witness such talent.

May I wish you a successful tour and look forward to your return to these shores.
Name: Fadzilah Amin  (Fuzzy)
Show: Tunbridge Wells
Review: It was absolutely full house at the Assembly Hall Theatre in this genteel English spa town.  Although there was a fair proportion of young people in the audience, the predominant hair colour was grey. Don was dressed in black: a plain black shirt with a row of silvery buttons up each cuff, and black trousers. He and his band looked a bit tired after playing on consecutive nights in Glasgow and Horrogate, but gave us a superb performance nevertheless, from 7.30 pm to 9.55 pm, forty minutes beyond the advertised closing time.

Nearly half of the 27 songs Don sang last night were sung in an upbeat rollicking tempo and style, which the twentysomethings in my party enjoyed very much.  Those were the three opening numbers: Maybe Baby, Everyday, and La La Love You, as well as the later Tulsa Time/Deep in the Heart of Texas, Little Sister, Lotta Loving, Fashion Victim and Headroom. Even Winterwood sounded somewhat upbeat, as did Dreidel.  If at all I have a complaint, it is that the music sounded a bit too loud and drowned out many of the words of the comic and satirical songs. This may have been partly due to the sound system (at one point Don jocularly muttered about the “viagra microphone!) and partly due to sheer delight in sound and rhythm on the part of the performers.

In contrast, there were some really quietly moving renditions, especially of Empty Chairs (sung solo), Vincent, Crossroads, And I Love You So, Jerusalem, and The Very Thought of You. ‘Crying’ began quietly, with minimal accompaniment, and worked up to an impressive crescendo of voice and band at the end. I was delighted to hear Bronco Bill’s Lament and If We Try live (this was only my second concert), each with slightly altered lyrics.  Castles in the Air was also particularly well sung, as was Wonderful Baby, which many members of the audience were humming as they left the theatre.

A song I was very interested to hear is the new “Run, Diana, Run”, with which Don and his band ended the show. It was inspired, I believe, by the Princess Diana phenomenon.  Don prefaced the song by speaking about people who were “prisoners of virtual reality”. The song had a pulsating rhythm, with a sense of urgency throughout, suggestive of flight and pursuit.  I couldn’t catch all the words clearly, but among the lines are:-

They like to feed on fantasy
Like lions feed on meat
Photography can kill you
The camera is their gun

It would be good to have this song in an album of new Don songs, so that we could figure out better the relationship between its words and its mesmeric rhythm.

The following were the songs sung in TW in chronological order:

Maybe Baby
La La Love You
If We Try
And I Love You So
Empty Chairs
Bronco Bill’s Lament
Billy the Kid
Tulsa Time/Deep in the Heart of Texas
Little Sister
Lotta Loving
Superman’s Ghost
Fashion Victim
The Very Thought of You
American Pie
A 1930’s song (very nice but couldn’t catch its name)
Castles in the Air
Wonderful Baby
Promise to Remember
Run, Diana, Run

Name: Tony Hughes
Show: Tunbridge Wells 18th May 2003
And I love Don so …….. Dear Don, I have seen you perform many times over the span of our lives so far ….. in London on several occasions …… at The Royal Festival Hall, The Albert Hall, The Dominion …… Dartford at the Orchard ….. Brighton at the Dome …… Cambridge at the Folk Festival …..and many more times in my dreams as I sang along with you listening to my collection of your recordings originally on vinyl ….. and now replaced by CD’s.

But tonight was the first time we met in a nightmare.  I am still stunned … and have vowed never again to venture in to the Assembly Halls in Tunbridge Wells.

The sound system was dismal ….. and I think struggles to cope with poor acoustics in the hall ….. the musicians backing you were too loud too loud too loud…… and whilst no doubt brilliant in their own field only served to distract from your vocal abilities … and the subleties, interest, joy and love in your lyrics.

There seemed to be a problem with your microphone as each time you strayed the slightest distance from it your voice was drowned by the overpowering disjointed noise from behind.

One of my favourite songs …. Castles in the Air …. was destroyed by the backing …… and I commented at the time to my lovely wife Annette that ” if I had a gun I would have happily shot the drummer “…  before the song reached its end.

I could not hear the lyrics of the final song about Diana and photographers …. and no doubt it has a deep meaning and is well meant ….. but it was not well received by many of the audience.

Thank goodness for the occasional songs slipped in to the set … Crossroads …. Empty chairs …. and the like …. where your superb individual abilities sang direct to my soul and set my nerves and emotions jangling as many times in the past. These at least took me back to wonderful times…. such as the RAH where I sat a few seats from the stage and you towered above me ….. bringing in turn tears to my eyes …. smiles to my face and set my brain a ticking …. or when you took the stage at Cambridge after Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee had brought the whole site to their feet ….. and within a few notes you seized the momentum ….and took our delight in your music to an even higher pitch.

Happy Days indeed and I look forward to seeing you perform as well again in the future ….. but not of course in Tunbridge Wells

Much respect …. and many thanks …. for the joy and company of your music over the years ….. right now I am off to the CD player and my headphones …. to put Castles in the Air back in my heart where it belongs.
Name: Jackie Flynn
Show: Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells
Review: A sell-out concert. If you missed it, you really missed out! My first Don Mclean concert – |I was surprised that Don came on stage at 7.30 and stayed there for 2 1/2 hrs (apart from a short break). No warm up act-just Don and his band. And what great musicians they were. Best of all, they looked as if they were having FUN! The audience was eating out of his hand and we were ALL having fun. We joined in singing American Pie and stood up and clapped and didn’t want it to end. The old familiar songs were there as well as some great new ones. At the end I wanted to do it all again. Come back soon, Don Mclean.
Name: Jenina B Pendry
Show: Tunbridge Wells
Review: Vincent was a classic. ‘The Very Thought of You’ is the best version of the song I’ve heard. And ‘Diana’ showed a social senisbility that hasn’t lost its edge. A great evening of great musical talent and social commentary — a rare, if not unique, combination.

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