They came for a slice of American Pie; they never expected to get pied in the face. Music legend Don McLean recently honored Buddy Holly at the Paramount Theatre on the 48th anniversary of the day the music died.
McLean began his set by playing a number of Buddy Holly songs, including “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” a ballad which McLean requested at a local radio station on Feb. 3, 1959, the day the music died.
Also during the set, McLean didn’t fail to bring the fans what they wanted playing a number of his major hits including ‘Castles in the Air’ and ‘Crossroads.’
“You know, the fourth song on Side 1, when albums still had sides,” McLean said.
During ‘Crossroads’ McLean’s drummer, bassist and rhythm guitarist left the stage leaving only McLean and his pianist.
As a performer, McLean has a natural air of confidence, swaying along with the melody while singing into the microphone, his voice full of emotion.
I have to say that on a personal note, that this show was unlike any other I’ve been to and I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing.
The atmosphere was not of the loud, fast-paced caliber that I’m usually experiencing at metal and hardcore shows.
Instead, it was calm, cool and collected. People sat in their seats hanging on McLean’s every word showing him the utmost respect — except for a young boy who couldn’t help but fall asleep.
McLean attracted a diverse crowd. There were people of all walks of life and all ages. Some dressed up for a night at the theatre while others wore tie-dyes and Pink Floyd T-shirts. The diversity surprised Monique Skowonen of Middlebury.
“I was expecting a bunch of elderly people, he’s from way back,” Skowonen said as she took another drag from her cigarette.
About 45 minutes into the set, McLean began to play ‘American Pie,’ and the theatre came alive. People started dancing in their seats, clapping to the beat and they sang along after McLean extended the invitation.
When McLean got to the chorus, “Bye, bye miss American pie, drove my Chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry, some good old boys drinking whiskey and rye singing this will be the day that I die,” the voices of hundreds of fans filled the theatre.
The harmonious sound of their voices was equal, if not more powerful than that of a church choir, a fitting tribute to the artists who lost their lives 48 years before.
After ‘American Pie’ concluded, McLean was honored with a standing ovation and a crowd in desperate need of an encore. He once again did not disappoint his fans.
McLean picked up his banjo and played it live for the first time in 20 years.
“I actually can’t believe people stuck around for the encore and that he played the banjo, it was awesome,” said Sean Grabowski, a senior from the College of St. Michaels in Burlington.
Amazingly, people really started to loosen up after the banjo came out. People were clapping and stomping their feet to the beat up in the balcony.
“My biggest kick of the night was watching this 80 year old women slap, clap and dance her way through out the night,” said Castleton student Robert Denny.
Yet, perhaps the real entertainment came from McLean sharing himself with audience. McLean shared stories about the birth of his daughter, his hatred of politicians, his obscure sense of humor and a cleverly crafted PSA.
“I’m happy I can still sing. I can sing because I don’t smoke. I would smoke if not for the asthma, which also got me out of the Army,” McLean said.
McLean’s jokes struck a chord with one Rutland local, Gordie Sheldon.
“Now I have some new jokes. If a man says something in the woods and no woman is around to hear him is he still wrong?” Sheldon said repeating one of McLean’s jokes.
In the end, when it comes down to capturing the whole essence of the night Marie Marro of Rutland said it best.
“What better thing to do on a Saturday night?” she said, still giddy that she spent the 37 cents to call into her favorite radio station for a chance to win tickets to see a legend.