Don McLean does as Don McLean wants. His 50-year career playing and writing folk, pop, country and rock’n’roll songs testifies to his desire not to be tied down and, fortunately for his Glasgow audience, it also meant a bumper live set because, as he mentioned more than once, he never knows when he’s going to be back.
Don McLean, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****
With zero fanfare and no time to waste, he and his five-piece band rollicked straight into Guy Mitchell’s Singing The Blues and freewheeled through a Buddy Holly double bill of Everyday and It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, the latter being the song a teenage McLean requested on the radio the day after Holly died, and therefore a neat set-up for his own most enduring hit.
But as he informed a couple of young fans in the front row, that was for later. First, some of his contemporary standards such as a solo, plaintive and richly resonant Empty Chairs, and the vulnerable romantic ballad And I Love You So, which developed into a battle between sumptuous slide guitar and cheesy keyboards.
McLean’s voice remains a strong, sonorous instrument but with a casual Willie Nelson-like looseness in the phrasing, as heard onCastles in the Air and an unamplified Stardust.
There was time for a couple of the more upbeat numbers from his excellent new album Botanical Gardens, including the swaggering title track, before the entire room was pressed into service on a suitably celebratory American Pie and captivated by a solo encore of the evergreen and quite devastating Vincent.