Bill Nisbet writes:
The magnificent concert given by Don McLean at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin in August 2004 left a lasting impression on me. Of all the many concerts I have seen, this was the best . The problem, of course, is that you wonder if, next time round, no matter how good the performance, you might feel you could never expect to reach these dazzling standards again.
This is the eternal dilemma of the performer, how to maintain your highest standards, and to satisfy your ever-critical audience, no matter what difficulties are placed before you . Although we are all fans we are all critics too and , where Don McLean especially is concerned, we have the highest expectations of the man and his music. I think Robert Burns got it right, over 200 years ago, when he described critics as ” Cut -throat bandits on the path to fame”
I had these thoughts in mind when the European dates were announced, somehow I had half-expected that 2004 may have been Don’s last visit to our shores. He had certainly hinted as much in various concerts and I would not have been too surprised if he had called it a day.
After some research I found I was only able to attend the Dublin concert on 28th August and arranged for my son Ross to accompany me to Dublin, strangely via Glasgow owing to limited Bank Holiday flights.
We arrived in Dublin just in time to get a meal before the concert and , like last year, we went to the Fans restaurant near to the theatre. Last year we met the band in the restaurant and this time we met Pat Severs, who was dining alone, the others having preferred Italian food on this occasion. Pat said they had had a brilliant tour so far and they were very pleased with the reception from the fans everywhere.
Once in the theatre we managed to meet up with Hannah and BillH and were introduced to Annie and Angela and soon it was time to take our seats.
Don came on stage dressed in blue jeans and black shirt with high cuffs which had what looked like 6 mother of pearl buttons. On the cuffs there was a single large bright red spot and the same feature was on each side of the collar. Pat was playing a Gretsch Chet Atkins hollowbody guitar and Ralph a Tyler 5 string bass.
Any doubts about Don’s voice were instantly dispelled when he launched into Singing The Blues, followed by Everyday, describing these as good warm-up songs. It is amazing how quickly Don McLean takes control of his audience and it was noticeable that, even at the end of his early numbers, hands were being raised high over heads in enthusiastic applause. This is a sure sign you are in for a great night. Don quickly warmed up and we were treated famously as he covered the range of his fantastic vocal skills. I tried to memorise the set list but I am sure I will have missed some out. However, to try to fill everybody in, here is a list of the numbers I managed to recall:-
Singing The Blues
Castles In The Air
Mountains of Mourne
He’s Got You
Oh My What A Shame
Addicted To Black
The Water Is Wide
Lotta Lotta Lovin
La La Love You
If You Could Read My Mind
Have You Seen Me
You’re My Little Darlin
Love In My Heart
I Gotta Know
What a fantastic feast this concert was as Don and the band performed at the highest level throughout. There was not one single weak number and many stood out as needing special mention. Amongst these was If You Could Read My Mind which Don sang absolutely beautifully and with great feeling. Oh My What A Shame was an absolute treat and was sung to perfection , as indeed were all the songs on this memorable and much-applauded evening’s entertainment. Don McLean is a class act and it is a privilege and pleasure to watch such a master craftsman at work. His quality is natural and he has pure talent, but he also has this instinctive feeling of how to communicate with his audience, a precious gift which is given to few.
My initial fears about Don reaching the extremely high standards of last year were certainly unfounded and I have to say that Don looks to have gained a new lease of life. He looks very happy and seems to be fitter and leaner than in previous visits. The passage of time seems to be agreeing with him and I hope very much that he will be back soon to showcase his magnificent talents for us all.
Outside the theatre Don took all the time he required to sign autographs and pose for photographs with a lot of very enthusiastic fans
who were clearly appreciative of the time he gave to them after such a long concert.
Our evening was concluded by carrying out a post-concert review whilst sharing a few drinks with Hannah Annie Angela and BillH and I was left to regret the fact that I was unable to attend the Monday night concert.
Haste Ye Back Don.