REVIEW: Don McLean, 50th Anniversary Of American Pie Tour, York Barbican, 28/9/22

Don McLean: The day the music lived on at York Barbican

THE album sleeve to 1971’s American Pie was spread large across the York Barbican stage, the familiar Stars and Stripes thumbs-up now adorned with the number 50.

It would not be until 1972 that Don McLean’s double A-sided title track – all 8 minutes 42 seconds of it – would make number two in the British charts, making the 50th Anniversary celebrations of this different form of “growing the Pie” apposite for this year’s British tour.

McLean, the singer, songwriter and guitarist from New Rochelle, New York, turned 76 four days after his York show in a year when he has toured for long months, playing songs old and much newer from his ever-extending catalogue.

American Pie may have charted “the day the music died” but that music has never died for McLean, whose love of playing live, and desire to please the audience with his commitment to those performances, remains undimmed, as he expressed at length in gratitude mid-set on his return to a venue he had visited previously in May 2015 and April 2018.

“Are you ready for a good time,” he asked as he stood on a carpet – like the late Leonard Cohen at Leeds First Direct Arena on his last British tour – his eyes shielded by dark glasses, where once they were so expressive on his British television appearances of the Seventies; his dress code more that of a veteran rock’n’roller than a folk troubadour as he led a five-piece band that would have been equally at home in a bar room.

That would be true of his set too, played with a swagger, rather than tenderness of yore, his voice now deeper, worn, weathered, although not to the extent of American Recordings-era Johnny Cash. The thickening years were most noticeable on Vincent, a starry, starry night now gauzed in clouds.

There was to be no Crying tonight, but the boisterous American Boys Invented Rock’n’Roll was a latterday joy, catching the night’s mood.

To his right as ever was pianist and arranger Tony Migliore, his sidesman for 32 years. “That’s longer than my two marriages put together – and a lot more fun,” McLean joshed.

How many times must they have lived out McLean’s words: “And I knew if I had my chance/That I could make those people dance/And maybe they’d be happy for a while”?

Here they were, doing so again, as McLean struck up “A long, long time ago”, the cue for the audience to “still remember how that music used to make me smile”, taking to their feet at his urging for “what you’ve been waiting for”.

That song of mystique and mystery, that cultural landmark, that song karaoke’d by Madonna, American Pie, here served with an extra slice. “Do you wanna sing it some more,” he need not have asked, providing his own answer with a faster reprise.

The music died? Its makers may die, sometimes tragically, too soon, but its heart still beats and always will, here spontaneously prompting a musical stethoscope affirmation: a rousing finale of Heartbreak Hotel, the first number one for one of those American boys who gave birth to rock’n’roll, Elvis. Rearrange those letters, Elvis…lives on, and so will American Pie.

Thumbs up, Don.

Did you know?

Don McLean released the album Tapestry in October 1970. Carole King’s 30 million seller of the same title followed soon after, in February 1971.

More Things To Do in and around York: when the love of music and food combine, plan on. List No. 99, courtesy of The Press

Over the Moon: Chef Stephanie Moon, delighted to be cooking in the York Food and Drink Festival demonstration kitchen on Wednesday at 1pm

FOOD for thought from Charles Hutchinson as he contemplates what’s on the menu for autumn days and nights out. 

Festival of the week: York Food and Drink Festival, Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square, York, packed with flavour until October 2

IN its 26th year, York Food and Drink Festival offers demonstrations and hands-on participation, taste trails and wine tastings, markets and street food, with two marquees and live music until 9pm.

Look out for the free Food Factory cookery classes in the Museum Gardens and the Coppergate Centre; trails through the doors of artisan food producers, delicatessens and restaurants; Bedern Hall crowning York’s finest pork pie at its York Pork Pie competition and York Mansion House hosting a week-long tea exhibition and tasting. Head to for the full five-course details.  

For the love of Nina Simone: Apphia Campbell in Black Is The Colour Of My Voice, Grand Opera House, York, Monday, 7.30pm

Apphia Campbell: Brings her play to York on Monday

INSPIRED by the life of Nina Simone, writer, director and performer Apphia Campbell’s play follows a successful jazz singer and civil rights activist as she seeks redemption after the untimely death of her father. 

Complemented by many of Simone’s most iconic songs sung live, she reflects on the journey that took her from a young piano prodigy, destined for a life in the service of the church, to a renowned jazz vocalist at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

Cameron Sharp: Confirmed for Stacee Jaxx role in Rock Of Ages

Musical of the week: Rock Of Ages, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm Saturday matinee

CAMERON Sharp returns to the rock demi-god role of Stacee Jaxx on the latest tour on Rock Of Ages after earlier appearances in the West End and on the road. He joins Coronation Street legend Kevin Kennedy, playing ornery Bourbon Room owner Dennis Dupree once more in this tongue-in-cheek musical comedy kitted out with classic rock anthems galore, from The Final Countdown to We Built This City, all played loud and proud.

The storyline invites you to “leave it all behind and lose yourself in a city and a time where the dreams are as big as the hair, and yes, they can come true.” Box office:0844 871 7615 or

Lucy Worsley: Uncovering the real, revolutionary, thoroughly modern Agatha Christie

History meets mystery: An Evening With Lucy Worsley On Agatha Christie, York Theatre Royal, Monday, 7.30pm

THE Queen of History will investigate the Queen of Crime in an illustrated talk that delves into the life of such an elusive, enigmatic 20th century figure.

Why did Agatha Christie spend her career pretending that she was just an ordinary housewife, a retiring Edwardian lady of leisure, when clearly she wasn’t? Agatha went surfing in Hawaii, loved fast cars and was intrigued by psychology, the new science that helped her through mental illness. 

Sharing her research of the storyteller’s personal letters and papers, writer, broadcaster, speaker and Historic Royal Palaces chief curator Lucy Worsley will uncover the real, revolutionary, thoroughly modern Christie. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Steve Hackett: Revisiting his Genesis past in Foxtrot At Fifty at York Barbican

Golden celebrations of the week: Steve Hackett, Genesis Revisited – Foxtrot At Fifty + Hackett Highlights, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm; Don McLean, 50th Anniversary of American Pie, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.30pm

GUITARIST Steve Hackett, 72, revisits Genesis’s landmark 1972 prog rock album Foxtrot, the one with the 23-minute Supper’s Ready, preceded by an hour of highlights from his six years in the band and his solo career.

New Rochelle troubadour Don McLean, 76, marks the 50th anniversary of his 1971 album American Pie and its 1972 top two single, the poetic 8 minute 36 sec title track, a double A-side that had to be split over two sides of the vinyl with its mysterious, mystical tale of lost innocence “the day the music died”. Expect Vincent, Castles In The Air and  And I Love You So too. Box office:

Missus in action: Katherine Ryan mulls over life, love, marriage and motherhood at York Barbican

Comedy gig of the week, Katherine Ryan, Missus, York Barbican, Thursday, 8pm

AFTER previously denouncing partnerships, Canadian-born comedian, writer, presenter, podcaster and actress Ryan has since married her first love…accidentally.

“A lot has changed for everyone,” says the creator and star of Netflix series The Duchess and host of BBC Two’s jewellery-making competition All That Glitters, who looks forward to discussing her new perspectives on life, love and what it means to be Missus. Box office:

Budge up! Everyone tries to find Room On The Broom in Tall Stories’ staging of Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler’s picture book. Picture: Mark Senior

Children’s show of the week: Tall Stories Theatre Company in Room On The Broom, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 1.30pm and 4.30pm; Wednesday, 10.30am and 1.30pm

IGGETY Ziggety Zaggety Boom! Jump on board the broom with the witch and her cat in Tall Stories’ adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s picture book.

When they pick up some hitch-hikers – a friendly dog, a beautiful green bird and a frantic frog – alas the broomstick is not meant for five. Crack, it snaps in two  just as the hungry dragon appears.

Will there ever be room on the broom for everyone? Find out in this 60-minute, magical, Olivier Award-nominated show for everyone aged three upwards. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Wild Murphys, wild times: Tribute band revel in Irish bar favourites in One Night In Dublin

Irish craic of the week: One Night In Dublin, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

IRISH tribute band The Wild Murphys roll out the Irish classics, Galway Girl, Tell Me Ma, Dirty Old Town, The Irish Rover, Brown Eyed Girl, Seven Drunken Nights, Whiskey In The Jar, Wild Rover and Molly Malone.

Kick back in Murphy’s Pub, sing along and imagine being back in Temple Bar as Middi and his band roar into York. “Ah, go on, go on, go on!” they say. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Tom Robinson at 72: Sing if you’re glad to be grey at The Crescent

2-4-6-8, don’t be late: Tom Robinson Band and TV Smith (solo), The Crescent, York, Friday, 7.30pm

PUNK veteran, LGBTQ rights activist and BBC 6 Music presenter Tom Robinson returns to The Crescent with his band to reactivate 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Glad To Be Gay, Up Against The Wall, The Winter Of ’79 and the cream of his early albums, 1978’s Power In The Darkness, 1979’s TRB Two, and beyond, maybe War Baby.

Support comes from  TV Smith, once part of Seventies’ punks The Adverts, of  Gary Gilmore’s Eyes notoriety. Box office:

Don McLean: Marking American Pie’s golden landmark at York Barbican on Wednesday

Honouring the day the music died in American Pie, Don McLean confirms York Barbican gig on 50th anniversary tour

IN the wake of 2021’s 50th anniversary of Don McLean’s American Pie, he will be touring next autumn “in honour of the day the music died”, playing York Barbican on September 28 2022.

McLean, who turns 76 on October 2, released his iconic double A-side from the October 1971 album of the same name, charting at number one in the United States and number two over here.

Despite decades of attempted interpretations, McLean has remained enigmatic as to the oft-quoted song’s meaning and the mystery is no less today.  

Fifty years on, American Pie resides in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry, one of fewer than 500 works to do so, as well as being named a top-five song of the 20th century by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) and being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.

McLean, a troubadour from New Rochelle, New York, cut his teeth on the Big Apple club scene in the late-1960s, before charting at home and abroad with Vincent (Starry, Starry Night), Castles In The Air, Cryin’, And I Love You So, Wonderful Baby, Since I Don’t Have You, It’s Just The Sun and If We Try, let alone American Pie.

Madonna, Drake and Garth Brooks are among many artists who have covered his songs, or about half a song in Madonna’s truncated case with American Pie.

McLean is an inductee of the Grammy Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame and has received a  BBC Lifetime Achievement award.  This year, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to be found in front of The Pie Hole Bakery, between Hollywood and Vine, Los Angeles. 

His song And I Love You So was the theme for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in May 2018; American Pie appears in the Avengers’ film Black Widow and an upcoming Tom Hanks movie, Finch; next up for Mclean is a children’s book, set for release in 2022. 

McLean appeared previously at York Barbican in May 2015 and April 2018. Tickets for next year’s return are on sale at