Don McLean + Jarrod Dickinson @ Symphony Hall, 10 May 2018

This evening’s performance at the Symphony Hall started with country/blues support act Jarrod Dickinson, with his wife Claire on backing vocals/ tambourine. Jarrod worked his way through a series of songs about love as well as a Guy Clarke cover, before finishing with a great new song ‘Prefer to Lose’ which was by far his best of the evening and is well worth a listen.

Then we were on to the main event! Don McLean came out with a backing band of five who he took the time to introduce individually. We had renowned songwriter Vip Vipperman on guitar who has written for the likes of Johnny Cash and Garth Brooks, Tony Migliore on keys who was seen playing both the piano and keyboard at the same time on a couple of songs, Brad Albin on bass who also performs with The Time Jumpers, and Pat Severs on semi-acoustic who Don met on Starry Starry Night over 20 years ago.

The visuals were simple, consisting of a plain black backdrop and one colour lighting – Don doesn’t really need a circus behind him. I’m not going to discuss how he’s aging as he commented: ‘Reviewers are starting to talk about my age now…I’ll bury most of them’. Although he did go on to say ‘Of course I’m too blind now to read what they’re saying’!

Vocally Don’s still got a lot in him and performs for over two hours a night. There were a few sketchy moments to his falsetto, but his normal range still has a great tone and power to it which we heard on a fantastic cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ as well as on ‘Crossroads’ from the American Pie album.

During the course of the evening Don took us on a journey across his entire back catalogue from ‘And I Love You So’ from 1970 debut album Tapestry, right through to ‘The Lucky Guy’ and ‘A Total Eclipse of the Sun’ from his latest album Botanical Gardens. Surprisingly the songs from his latest album were two of my highlights, along with the slow ‘Empty Chairs’ which he performed alone.

Throughout the show Don took the time to talk with us about everything from Latin to mobile phones (speaking of which even some pensioners are now watching concerts through their phones!). Clearly very fan orientated he said ‘I hope my songs have helped to give you some solace, some happiness and something to hold on to’. His line of the night though was ‘When they ask me what ‘American Pie’ means, I say ‘It means I don’t have to work anymore’’!

The crowd were fairly quiet and attentive for most of the evening but McLean did manage to get over 90% of them up and dancing for ‘American Pie’ and his cover of Johnny Horton’s ‘Got the Bull by the Horns’ with which he finished the main part of the show. He also had everyone singing to ‘This Little Light of Mine’ which he wrote aged 17.

At the end of the night Don came back out for an encore of ‘Vincent’, which he performed alone, and a full band version of ‘Walk Right Back’ after which the band played him off the stage.

Set List

  1. Singing the Blues (cover)
  2. Everyday (cover)
  3. Just the Sun
  4. The Pattern is Broken
  5. Crossroads
  6. Bronco Bill
  7. Tulsa Time (cover)
  8. Jerusalem
  9. Winterwood
  10. Total Eclipse of the Sun
  11. Beautiful Eyes
  12. The Lucky Guy
  13. Love Hurts
  14. Crying (cover)
  15. And I Love You So
  16. Empty Chairs
  17. This Little Light of Mine
  18. American Pie
  19. Got the Bull by the Horns (cover)


  1. Vincent
  2. Walk Right Back

Chrissie Duxson (with thanks to Stu Thoy for the setlist)

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