Don McLean

LVH Theater, July 3

As the legendary singer/songwriter took the stage and launched into Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue Got Married,” a group of 50-something women to my left squealed like over-stimulated teenagers.

Minus that small group reliving their youth, the showroom at LVH was a decidedly reserved crowd … at first. McLean warmed them up with “La La Love You,” his 66-year-old voice still as crisp and amazingly strong as the original recordings. McLean stood center stage with his acoustic guitar, giving nods to his backup band before launching into a Storytellers-esque banter, listing a résumé of other artists who have covered his songs, including Elvis, Madonna and even Weird Al. “Luckily I own my songs,” McLean joked.

Following “Homeless Brother,” a heartfelt rendition of the touching “And I Love You So” turned on the tear ducts, not only for myself, but for others who could be seen dabbing at their eyes. The only flaw was the music emanating from the keyboardist, which, as my friend pointed out, sounded like Laserdisc karaoke.

After “Jerusalem” and “Superman’s Ghost,” McLean paused, this time thanking the audience for attending despite the tough economy. “I’m sure you could be spending your money on drugs and alcohol!” he laughed. Also poking fun at the age of the audience, he made references to original LP sides and cuts, then supposed some fans even had 8-tracks of his songs.

Amid a bit of Elvis and Johnny Horton, it was McLean’s “Vincent” that truly stood out and garnered a mid-set standing ovation. The audience returned to their feet for the grand finale, “American Pie.” It inspired a group sing-along and the gaggle of giddy grannies to run to the front of the stage to dance. The crowd was so on-point with the lyrics that McLean began the song again for those wanting to croon a few extra verses. Overall, it was a successful homage to Americana, right before Independence Day. ★★★★☆

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By Tribune Media Services

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