Birmingham – May 3rd

Don McLean returns to England for his first concert there  since 2008. He is in concert in Birmingham on May 3rd. If you’re lucky enough to attend the concert then please leave a comment or review here for other fans to enjoy reading.


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  1. Hi Ian G
    I found your review interesting – and the points you made while contrary to other reviews are still noteworthy. As a point of background – Don does not subscribe to the theory of cover songs – his renditions are unique interpretations of classic songs – It is a traditional and well received practice for Don to take his audience down a musical path with songs from many era’s – Don’s band is made up of of some of Nashville’s premium musicians – lead guitarist Vip Vipperman has enjoyed a stellar career and is the writer of hit records to boot . I would suggest to you to try another concert in the context of the above – it will be good for you sole . As for Leonard Cohen – I attended his Aussie concert and fell asleep – although I am amazed he has made so much money for delivering so little . I’ve decided Leonard Cohen is like a Rubick’s Cube – paid for it because everyone else did and like most everyone still have no idea how to understand it !

    Bob Gregg

  2. Annie’s view of Birmingham from Cloud 9.
    I have no idea how anyone is able to express themselves in the written word so eloquently hours after seeing Don in concert, my mind is all over the place it’s like Don touches all my senses with his voice and music I can barely sleep let alone write. Anyway I’ll try now having had two days back in reality and work to try to wind down,although there is little chance of that when I know I will see him again at the RAH.
    The excitement of seeing Don in concert starts with the tour announcement, the procurement of tickets, travel and accommodation plans for the long distance concerts and I’m always asked by bemused friends was it worth it? Yes I say every time 100%.I have been disappointed by a performance of Don’s.
    Don told us “what you see is what you get , I’m not an act” well that’s an understatement Don we know how brilliant you are and I love the spontaneity of your performance. Don slides from one song to another effortlessly, well supported by his boys [the band] great to see the band are back and they need their own mention here Tony, Ralph, Jerry and new boy to us UK fans welcome Vip, great to see you all and hear you all again. I have to say I missed Pat on his Dobro .
    Not going to repeat the set list but loved the Buddy Holly song “Now we are one” sang with such intensity it was beautiful as was “I always young”.
    Fashion report already done by others suffice to say but Don looked wonderful, but he must be exhausted from his Solo tour .He gave us over two hours of wonderful music .Crying was brilliant, I hold my breath every time I hear him sing it live such a powerful song and now I hear from the Bristol reviews it was even better.
    To share the evening with other fans is magic too, you know who you are .It was also special as I was able to share my love of Don’s music with my son who is studying at university in Birmingham, a musician himself. I think actually he only came to meet me so mum could pay for a meal beforehand!
    Well done to Lesley too great voice.
    Anyway I could ramble for ever talking about Don so I’ll save the rest for the RAH.
    Don Thank You so much.

  3. Great concert. First time I’ve seen Don McLean live and I wasn’t disappointed. I was there with my 14 year old daughter who has become a big fan in the last year.

    Don sang our favourite song “Empty Chairs”, though missed out our second favourite “Castles in the Air”. The piano backing on “Crossroads” was simply beautiful. His version of Masters of War was superb.

    When you come back to Birmingham again Don, we’ll be there.

  4. Took my wife who was really looking forward to the concert as she has been wanting to see Don for many years.
    Lesley Rowley was a disappointment. She lost me when she sang the vicious and cruel song about her ex. Her songs lacked memorability in either tunes or words. The vulnerable, pity me, little girl act needs to stop, as well. Either, she grows up; sorts out her material; drops the snide ‘humor’; takes charge of her stage and makes Don afraid, or, you don’t need her. A two hour set with a half hour interval would be wiser.

    At first, the band seemed uncertain. Gradually they all relaxed and warmed up. However, there were far too many cover songs. I understand the Buddy Holly tribute but it should have been left for the encore and segued into American Pie.

    Many of Don’s more interesting songs were missing. The Grave, Buddy Joe, Babylon, Jerusalem, Sister Fatima just to mention a few.

    Actually, Don didn’t ask the audience to vote for him. He said that he was grateful that we had already voted with our cash.

    The keyboard player is brilliant. The drummer is also good, but lighting should have put him in shadow when he had nothing to do. At times, he looked like a spare part. The bass player was good but lacked sensitivity. The lead guitarist had his moments but I have heard many better. It was painfully obvious that he did not know some of Don’s songs that well. Don had to tell the sound engineer to bring the lead up. What was the sound desk doing at the side of the stage? Replacing the lighting engineer and the sound engineer might help.

    I began to suspect a lack of rehearsal – due to the flight problems? Were the cover versions fillers because the band has to learn the other songs?

    All in all, a good concert, but not a brilliant one. Watch Leonard Cohen ‘Live in London’. Don can be as good, if not better. He has the material, but I am not sure that he has the band.

    It was our first time and I’m not sure that there will be a second.

  5. Great show and sound much much better than 2007 at the same venue….Don’s vocals loud and clear and the band levels were all fine…Good pace to the show with some good rocking on Tulsa Time/Deep In The Heart Of Texas medley and in the “Elvis” rockabilly section. Hairs on the back of my neck (and many others I guess) were alive during “I was always young” – never heard that song before, but that alone would make me buy the new album. Finally, some great high and lonesome banjo at the end of the show. Thanks for a great night.

  6. Symphony Hall Birmingham 3 May 2010

    This 2010 tour has had the biggest build-up ever, we had Don arriving solo in England to fulfill an unprecedented number of TV, Radio and media interviews. Then, as I got ready to fly to Amsterdam, came the volcanic ash catastrophe. I had every faith that the great Troubadour who is Don McLean would,somehow, get to Amsterdam and perform and I knew I had to show commitment and determination too. A long train and ferry journey got me to Amsterdam to see the landmark concert, Don solo after donkeys years and giving the greatest performance of his life. I will never forget it and my repect for Don McLean is absolute. Even after the horrendous and expensive delayed struggle to get back home by trains and ferry from Europe I would still consider the effort to be 100% worthwhile. This weekend I may be put to the test again as I am due to fly to Dublin on Saturday after the RAH concert and the first news I heard this morning was that volcanic ash has closed Irish airports today and more problems are anticipated. I reckon Don and I will be rowing across or joining Christine Bleakley on these water skies.

    So to Birmingham Symphony Hall and first sight of Lesley Roley, Don’s support. She didn’t tell us who she was, just looked out and said “Ooh there’s a lot of people in here”. This week Lesley has fought off a throat infection and a sprained wrist but caught the audience with her charm and wit as she sang her Dad Song and all about Clouds in a lovely clear voice. Her song Mr Sad has her exacting revenge on an ex whose “little bits” were, according to Lesley, very small indeed. She then sang about her “Little Bits”, a great song and not at all about what you have been imagining. She promised us we would be singing her round of “I Like The Flowers” for weeks and I am still singing it now, great stuff Lesley and thanks for a smashing performance.

    It was a happy smiling and relaxed Don McLean who came onstage to a great ovation, I suspect this was due in no small measure to the presence of his wife Patrisha in the audience . She came down to the stage to take some pre-show photos and that is one serious Canon camera she was holding.

    Don had a beer ready beside him to “take care of the volcanic ash”. He needn’t have worried as he was in great voice throughout the 1 hour 50 minute continuous concert. Backed again by the band he seemed to be enjoying the re-union very much and the sound in the hall was very good.

    As ever we got a great variety of Don’s many talents on show with the obligatories, of course, being mixed in with early and brand new songs and he took time to tell of how Merle Travis influenced the Rockabilly movement with his style of picking . A demo of the style was brilliantly done with Don singing ” I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine” and “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again”

    The setlist was in this order:-

    Buddy Holly Medley…Well..All Right, Crying Waiting Hoping and Now We’re One (great to hear this again)
    It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (Buddy Holly hit written by Paul Anka)
    It’s Just The Sun
    If We Try
    At this point Don teased the politicians in the election run-up and said to the audience “Vote For Me instead”
    And I Love You So
    Empty Chairs
    Love In My Heart
    In A Museum
    Merle Travis inflence explained
    I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine
    When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again
    Thats All Right Mama
    Tulsa Time
    I Was Always Young
    Magdalene Lane
    Love Hurts
    A long epic about a pie
    I Gotta Know
    Mary Lost A Ring (Banjo)
    Masters Of War (Banjo)

    A brilliant night, Don McLean is still the greatest and you must get to see him on this tour. Roll on the Royal Albert Hall…… and,please Mr Volcano, get yourself away to sleep again.

    Bill N 4 May 2010

  7. I was at the Birmingham Concert in 2007, and I agree the sound was aufull. But I am glad to say Don sounded fantastic tonight. A rearly tight well ballaced mix. I have got tickets for the Royal Albert Hall, I hope it sounds as good there.

  8. After the warm and sunny conditions of the last couple of weeks, it felt more like February driving in the rain and hail up the M40 from London to see the UK and Ireland portion of the ‘Volcano Tour’ kick of at a well-populated Birmingham Symphony Hall.

    After the pleasure of dining with fellow fans of old and new acquaintance, we were seated well in time for support act Lesley Roley to make a prompt start at 8pm. I must say I thought she did an excellent job in her 30 minutes, and certainly won herself some new fans. Her songs were well delivered with clear vocals, and a naïve performing style that charmed the audience. The ultimate benchmark of a support act is the CDs they manage to shift in the interval, and Lesley must have eaten healthily into the 1000 she produced for the tour. Her CDs were certainly moving considerably faster than Don’s!

    A short break and the lights dimmed slightly ahead of the scheduled 9pm. The band took their positions and after a short delay whilst everyone looked at each other Don was announced and entered in his trademark black to a huge welcome.

    Off into the traditional Buddy Holly medley, including one song I can’t recall hearing before, let alone hearing Don sing, called Now We’re One. The immediate good news was that the muddy sound we heard at this venue last year was not repeated and the clarity we had experienced during Lesley’s performance continued. The band’s backing was restrained and effective with all the individual instruments clear in the mix (at least to my untutored ear).

    Don’s voice was in solid shape and the close to two hour set formed a nice balance of his work, including 3 tracks off the ‘new’ CD – I Was Always Young, Mary Lost a Ring (on banjo) and In A Museum. Other highlights included If We Try and Magdalene Lane both of which seem back in favour, although my long vigil to hear Tapestry continues! It was noticeable that the endings to songs were particularly structured, and in chatting to Ron Buck after the show it appeared that this had been something that was worked on during a longish sound check. I have listed the songs sung as far as I can remember them at the end.

    Overall this was a very strong start, earning 8 out of 10 from me. I added half a mark for the absence of La La Love You but deducted it again for the missing Tapestry and for re-singing of the first verse of AP which always bugs me! There was no meet and greet after the show and no other opportunity to chat to Don. Whether a meet and greet will occur at other shows I don’t know.

    Tomorrow involves a short journey south to Bristol and a show at the Colston Hall, a venerable old building and frequent stop for Don over the years but not a venue I have experienced before. It was however the one place he sung Tapestry on the 2007 tour realising it was one of the few shows I didn’t attend!!

    Songs (in no particular order and probably incomplete!)

    AP, Vincent, And I Love You So, Crying, If We Try, Magdalene Lane, Winterwood, Empty Chairs, Crossroads, Love Hurts, Headroom, Fashion Victim, Mary Lost a Ring (banjo), Masters of War (banjo), I Was Always Young, In A Museum, Buddy Holly Medley, That’s Alright Mama (at the end of a nice guitar picking section), Food On The Table, It’s Just The Sun

  9. First review of the first concert on the UK Tour!!
    Brilliant night , Don was on top form, looking really happy and relaxed. Fantastic play list – some oldies, some newies, some rare ones. Just for a moment I was back to 1972 – is it really 38 years ?? Good to know that the following is as strong as ever – there cannot be many artists who can still pack the crowds in like this. The band were great, cant write anymore I’ve run out of superlatives!!!
    Want to go to all the other concerts – for those of you with tickets you are in for a treat, the voice is as good as ever, – wish I could be there with you

    Lesley Grundy
    Good news – we got Crossroads!! Bad news – no Tapestry !!!!!!!!

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