Review: We arrived at the Pavilions at 7.30pm (8pm start). I was absolutely shattered having awoken at some unearthly hour this morning because the hotel room in Tunbridge Wells which I had booked into for the
night was like an icebox.
How does he do it?, I mused, while being thrown about on the train back to Portsmouth, and then during the long drive down to Plymouth. I feel half dead and all I have to do is WATCH. I have never been to two consecutive shows on consecutive days before and it has made me realise what incredibly hard work it must be for Don, haring from one venue to the next, soundchecks and whatever, a 3 hour concert, sitting there patiently signing a million autographs (and those were just for Cookie!) piling off to some hotel and then doing it all again the next day. It’s amazing. The audience are very different from last night. Last night it was all ancient dyed-in-the-wool Don fans and if he had forgotten all the words the audience would have filled in for him. There are some of those here obviously but I’m aware that many of them are new to Don’s concerts. They’re relaxed and receptive though and when Don appears he seems more relaxed as well.
He starts with the usual sort of songs, Maybe Baby, Fool’s Paradise and La La Love You. I hold my breath at this point. Will he go for those high notes in the chorus that he didn’t get last night?
Nope. You just had to imagine them.
He continues with Homeless Brother, It’s Just The Sun, And I Love You So and Castles in the Air. He talks about the aging process and makes some ah – some complimentary comments about Burt Reynolds’ appearance.
There followed Angry Words, My Love Was True, Little Sister, Everyday, Superman’s Ghost, Jerusalem and finally Crying. He must have been saving himself for this one because he duly hit the high notes this time. “And that’s only the first half” says Don cheerily as he strolls off, presumably for his well-earned Guinness.
My brother who has accompanied me and who hasn’t seen Don since the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1980 comments that if the drummer just played symbols on the quiet ones it would be better as the tap tapping is a bit intrusive.
Last night was fine but I find I’m enjoying this concert more. There was no need to queue for the loo for half an hour for one thing (what do some women do in there?!), the songs are a bit more unusual and there’s more room to float about. It’s not so hectic and there’s a fresh sea breeze wafting in through the open doors.
When Don appears minus the band at the start of the second half my heart leaps with joy. I try to love the band, I really do. I tell myself that without them Don would probably have had a heart attack years ago, he clearly enjoys playing with them, they take the pressure of him a bit, they’re very professional and since American Pie means that he doesn’t have to work again if he doesn’t want to and probably wouldn’t want to
without them, it’s probably all down to them that Don is here now and I should be jolly grateful to them.
Sigh. I s’pose it’s true. Thanks band. But like many other fans of my era, I just can’t help longing for those halcyon days when Don used to stand up there with just his guitar or banjo and we got just Don, pure and undiluted. So I resolve to make the most of the few songs Don says he’s going to do solo.
Last night someone had requested “My Best To You” a Kitty Lester song that he used to do back in about 1980. I really love that song and it’s not on any of his records so I asked if he would do it again tonight. Didn’t know whether he would – whether it was right for tonight but yeessss!!! – Don duly kicks off with this one and I’m ecstatic. Next come Empty Chairs, Wonderful Baby (a popular choice) and Where Were You Baby. This is good I think to myself. Shades of the old Don. If he carries on like this the aging Don dudes who are lucky enough to be going to his remaining concerts (I’m mentioning no names!) are in for a real treat.
He talks about Marty Robbins and a western album he is putting together and does Billy The Kidd which is not going to be on it!
Then he does a song, the words to which are complete nonsense, in the same way as “On the Amazon”, to the tune of Dixie. The words are by Carl Samber apparently. I’ve not heard it before but my brother says he’s seen Arthur Askey do it. Arthur Askey? Good grief! He’ll be doing George Formby songs next! It’s a delight though. I’ve always adored Don’s silly songs. It’s reminds me of his old banjo slots.
All too soon the band re-appear and we’re treated to Winterwood, Fashion Victim, Have You Seen Me, Run Diana Run which reminds me a bit of Prime Time, and of course American Pie after which the audience start stomping for more.
“Don’t worry” I say suavely to the folks next to me. “He hasn’t done Vincent yet”.
But as a final treat he comes back minus the band again and sings Vincent with just his guitar for backing. Last night Tony Migliori did some clever stringy sounding stuff in the background which was very pleasant indeed. But just Don and his guitar with no frills – now for me at least, that’s utter perfection and a thoroughly high spot on which to end.
I queue up again after the show. I’ve brought along my two Don McLean songbooks and I ask Don if he’ll autograph them. (Cookie’s giving me ideas). Don obligingly tattoos his signature on his forearm on Songbook no. 1, and on his jeanclad leg on Songbook 2. A permanent special reminder of a very special concert. Many thanks Don.
Name: keith pinder
Review: I last saw Don in Birmingham several years ago & was eagerly awaiting this concert. I took along my girlfriend, Liz, and my sister (Chris) & her partner (Gary) none of whom had seen Don live before. The venue was large and airy, and sadly only two-thirds full, perhaps affecting the sound quality. Don played , by my counting, 14 songs before the interval, and 12 after, in a concert of over 2 hours. I thought Don looked tired when he emerged on stage, (probably not surprising given the schedule) but he & his band launched into “Maybe Baby” & “Fools Paradise” energetically! However the music tended to overwhelm Don’s voice due to the high volume. A change of tempo with “Homeless Brother” brought a better balance & Don’svoice could be heard over the band-I guess the sound engineers had adjusted things a little by this time.
Then, one of my favourite Don numbers, “It’s just the Sun”, followed by “And I love you so”. (I am biased in preferring these slower, melodic tunes over the others so by now was well into enjoying the evening, and Don’s voice, which as ever was rich & up to the challenges (eg. of singing “crying” -though that came later).
“Castles in the Air” was spoilt for me by some over-intrusive drumming & I’m not sure if the drummer was on the same song! It seemed like that anyway….
“Angry Words” and “My love was true” followed by “Little Sister” “Everyday” “Superman’s Ghost” “Jerusalem” & “Crying” all came before a (deserved) interval break an hour later.
The second half included “Wonderful Baby” & a fantastic “Where were you Baby?”, “Winterwood”, a nonsense song(title I didn’t get but to the tune of “Dixie-land”, “Story of Billy the Kid” ,Run Diana Run (backing too loud again), “Fashion Victim” and of course A. Pie (with fine instrumental section). Don finished the night with a captivating “Vincent” (the encore).
We 4 left well pleased with the evenings’ music having enjoyed both it & Don’s (many) amusing asides, including the one about the loo roll! For those who care greatly about the outfit, Don wore black shirt & trousers with motif (difficult to identify) to lapels & cuffs.(Fashion Victims?)
Name: Ruth Cremin
Show: Plymouth, England 19 May 2003
Review: It was wonderful to come and see Don after such a long time.I last him at the London Paladium in the late 70’s early 80’s. Even though we are all that much older, his voice sounds just the same. It was a lovely evening, much enjoyed. Thankyou.
Name: Anthony Rose
Review: I have to say that I was disappointed with Don McLean’s concert in PLymouth last night. Couldn’t complain about quantity as Don was on stage for over 2 hours, but unfortunately, for much of that time he had his musicians with him whose wall of sound obliterated Don’s acoustic guitar and smothered his voice making it barely audible. It is only fair to say though that his musicians were extremely competent and augured well as a rock n roll band.
For many of us in the two thirds full hall, the most enjoyable section followed directly on from the interval when Don played a short acoustic set and when he encored acoustically on Vincent at the end of the concert. The concert started with Don and band playing some early rock n roll which seemed, to me, to lack some lustre which was not helped through the 4 or 5
songs being taken at the same pace in the same key without a break. Communication between Don and the audience was minimal except during the acoustic set so whilst there was an awful lot of songs being sung it would have been more interesting, for me at least, to have heard about some of the background to why he had written some of the songs or learned songs of other writers.
This may be a little cynical on my part but, as expected, Don finished the concert on American Pie which had been extended through additional instrumental parts working the audience into a sort of frenzy, then when the song had finished the band began playing Pie again with a strong beat to direct hand-clapping in rhythm to engineer an encore. My view is that Don would have received an encore regardless of the band’s prompting as we all enjoyed singing American Pie and I expect that we always will do! Sometimes you think that you are the only person with such views but when walking back to the car park I overheard other people making similar comments.
I had been looking forward to this concert, I hadn’t seen Don in concert for over 20 years, and had gone full of anticipation only to be disappointed. Personally I don’t think that there was a need for a loud rock n roll band – adding loud instruments does not necessarily equate to better or improved. Don McLean writes some very fine songs which can
speak volumes with just asn acoustic guitar alone. I may be a little biased in saying that being an acoustic guitarist guitar player myself, but I can also appreciate that it would have been some buzz playing music with Don’s superb musicians but that buzz needs to communicate with the listeners which I don’t think that it did last night mores the pity.
Name: Peter Swain
Review: My first ‘live’ experience of Don and his music. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but the excellent backing band was just too loud man, too loud! You don’t need them Don. The voice is as good as when I first listened in 1971.
Diana Tribute was just noisy and not well received. The classics were there: Vincent as an encore was beautiful.
More accoustic numbers in the set, balanced by the rock stuff would have been great; even for such an unsympathetic venue as the Pavilions.
Thank you for the music, Don. It’s still alive!!