With witty humor and a voice that could reach out and touch the soul, Don McLean captivated the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center audience this weekend — so much so that fans craved an encore.
“I’ve never been here before and I probably won’t be back,” McLean teased the audience. “So I’m going to play every song I can for you guys tonight.”
McLean dug up what he called, “records in the attic” with songs from his 1970s album “American Pie,” and contrasted the old with covers and new tracks from his latest album “Botanical Gardens.”
The set list began with upbeat songs “The Lucky Guy” and “Got Me Singing the Blues,” then McLean put the brakes on for slower selection “Crossroads.”
Tony Migliore, who accompanied McLean on the piano during “Crossroads,” molded the tranquil essence of the song with his gentle control and fluidity over the progression of keys and chords.
McLean denied a lasting mellow sensation in the audience by accelerating the tempo with a cover of Ray Charles’ “Hide nor Hair.”
“I’ve never really stuck to a formula,” McLean said. “I was always into writing a bunch of songs and ideas. Some worked and some didn’t, but I liked them all.”
McLean performed for audiences in the past that were much larger than Luhrs’, but he steadily thanked those in attendance for being such a lively and supportive group. The crowd’s high energy drove McLean to turn over an equal amount of excitement, if not more, during his performance.
Giving the audience a taste of some of his hits, McLean played, “And I Love You So,” “Castles in the Air” and “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night),” but left them hanging with anticipation for “American Pie.”
McLean said people often ask him how he never gets tired of playing the same hits from the ’70s, but they are a critical part of his journey as a singer and songwriter. “My job is to make you happy and sing these songs as best as I can,” McLean said.
Finally delivering with the anticipated performance of “American Pie,” McLean drew the song out to give the audience a chance to sing along to the catchy chorus multiple times. Following “American Pie,” the audience took to their feet and gave McLean and his band a lengthy standing ovation.
McLean bowed for the audience and pulled the plug from his acoustic guitar before he abandoned the stage to mark the conclusion of the show. However, the audience was not finished with McLean just yet, and with cheers and applause, they called him back for an encore.
After a few moments of nonstop applause, McLean and his band paraded back on stage to greet the “chirping birds” with one final song, “Crying” from his 1978 album, “Chain Lightening.”