Glastonbury

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts at Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, UK. 26 June 2011.

Don McLean came to Glastonbury and sang folk, pop, country and rock. He even sang “Sea Man” – an acapella song he wrote 30 years ago while living in Israel.

He sang songs from five decades.

He sang Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and demonstrated his own legendary singer-songwriter status with four of his top-10 hits, three of which reached number 1.

Don sang for an hour – just 12 songs – to an estimated audience of 100,000.

I was honoured to be there with my wife as Don’s guests, the day starting with joining Don on his tour bus at the Bath Spa Hotel where he and other performers at Glastonbury had been staying. It was an extraordinary day: surreal, exciting, amazing and a truly unforgettable once in a lifetime experience.

Arriving on site at Glastonbury
View from the bus arriving on site at Glastonbury
Don’s drummer, Jerry Kroon, rehearsing back stage

Finding ourselves on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury was a jaw-dropping moment. We watched as the crowd increased by tens of thousands in the 20 minutes or so before Don was due on stage at 1.30pm in the early afternoon “Legends” slot. My unsteady video captures the moment Don took to the stage and, later, part of American Pie. The sight and sound of that huge crowd singing along with Don was a sensory overload (in a good way!)

Watching the BBC coverage later, I noticed Don say “wow” as he came out on stage and clocked the crowd for the first time. Wow was a good word for it.

Paul Charles, Don’s UK agent who joined us on the tour bus, said that Glastonbury crowds vote with their feet if they don’t like an act. They stayed with Don throughout and the big roars of approval weren’t just reserved for the classics – Vincent, American Pie and Crying – but relatively little known Don McLean songs like “Love in my Heart (Food on the Table)” also went down a storm.

Don and his brilliant musicians nailed every song; they were clearly determined to do their best performances. As always, Don was tuned into the audience; he chose to sing American Pie slightly earlier and surprised everyone by finishing with “Sea Man”. The crowd would be dancing all day, but this song gave them something to think about.

The full set:

Medley – Well Alright, Peggy Sue Got Married
La La Love You
Love in my Heart
Homeless Brother
Have You Seen Me
Vincent
Tulsa Time/Deep in the Heart of Texas
Crying
American Pie
I Gotta Know
Sea Man

For someone so often associated with just one or two songs, Don has a back-catalogue of hits and other influential songs that surprises many. Beneath the Pyramid Stage a huge Greenpeace banner was visible for all to see. However few present would know that a Don McLean song, “Tapestry”, was an inspiration for that movement’s formation after the co-founder David McTaggart heard Don perform the song in 1969.

The Greenpeace connection

After his set, Laura Marling was among the first to congratulate Don. Marling won Best British Solo Female Artist at the 2011 Brit Awards and is a brilliant contemporary singer-songwriter who is clearly appreciative of Don’s work.

Dressing Room

A quick interview with BBC TV followed and then with a wave from Beyoncé’s dancers we were ‘out of there’ on Don’s tour bus to Heathrow in time for his flight to Canada for the next stop on the tour. Sadly we said goodbye at this point and headed from the airport back to Bath where our adventure had begun.

Don McLean Live at Glastonbury on the BBC

The Pyramid Stage crowd area was packed with approximately 100,000 Glastonbury fans joining Don singing American Pie, but they loved the whole set with Love in my Heart and Crying also getting a huge response.

View from the Pyramid Stage
View from the Pyramid Stage
BBC recorded the whole show
BBC recorded the whole show
Don finishes with "Sea Man"
Don’s final song, “Sea Man”