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Five reasons to drop everything and go see Don McLean in Missoula

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As if having Paul McCartney come to Missoula wasn’t enough excitement for one year, the Garden City welcomes another legendary musician next week, and you need to go see him.

Don McLean plays in Missoula on Sept. 26. Go see him, even if you don't think you can!
Don McLean plays in Missoula on Sept. 26. Go see him, even if you don’t think you can!

Even if you don’t have tickets, even if you have prior commitments, even if you’ve never considered yourself a fan, or even if God forbid you had a death in the family and can’t make it because you have a funeral to go to.

Yes. You heard me, even if your great Aunt Millie died, you should skip her funeral and go see Don McLean.

If you’re not convinced (and let’s be honest, if you were already convinced you wouldn’t be reading this, right?) Here are five reasons why you should go see him play on Sept. 26 at the Dennison Theatre on the University of Montana campus.

1) If you let him, Don McLean will reach into your soul and pull out all of your feelings and describe them with perfect clarity with his poetic melodies and lyrics. Seriously.

While the story is fairly commonplace now, back in 1973, a young female poet named Lori Lieberman, a fantastic folk singer in her own right, went to a Don McLean concert.

After hearing him perform his hit song “Empty Chairs,” she felt so moved by the song, which talks about how he never believed his love would leave him until she finally did, that she wrote the words for what would eventually become the song “Killing Me Softly,” which was  later recorded by everyone from Roberta Flack to Lauryn Hill and the Fugees. Lieberman also recorded it and is just as touching as any of the covers that came out afterward.

And the thing is, if you’ve ever lost someone you’ve loved, listening to “Empty Chairs” you can see where Lieberman was coming from. It gets that feeling just right, almost to the point where you wonder how this man who has never met you can come up with words to describe what you’re experiencing so seemingly effortlessly.

The same goes for many of his other songs such as “And I Love You So,” “Crying” and “Castles in the Air.”

And with such lyrics as

“I guess they understand
How lonely life has been
But life began again
The day you took my hand

And yes I know how lonely life can be
The shadows follow me
And the night won’t set me free
But I don’t let the evening bring me down
Now that you’re around me”

you understand the power this man has for telling love and loss and loneliness like they truly are. And, he’s going to be sharing them in person in Missoula next week. Need I say more? Yes, I do, actually…

2) You will always regret the time you missed the chance to see Mr. McLean sing “American Pie” in person.

While I wouldn’t consider “American Pie” to be my favorite song of his, it IS a historic song that everyone knows, at least if you’re a fan of music, anyhow.

It’s been covered by people such as Madonna and Tori Amos and parodied by Weird Al, which, let’s be honest, you’re not anybody unless you’ve been parodied by Weird Al, right?

If you call yourself an American citizen, you owe it to yourself to hear the man who wrote the classic tribute to Buddy Holly (he once said that writing the first verse helped him deal with his emotional pain he was going through after his friend had tragically died), that also sums up the American experience.

Nobody really knows for sure what the song is about, and that’s also the beauty of it, it’s so open ended and beautiful that we all can find something to connect with it.

And now, Mr. McLean will perform it on our front doorstep (depending on how far you live from Missoula, at least) and you’re going to miss it because of what, exactly? Think about it in the big picture and how horrible you will feel about yourself if you knew you had the chance to see “American Pie” played in a smaller theater being performed by the man who released it way back in 1971.

3) It’s not all that common to have the chance to see someone such as he perform in a smaller venue. 

The Dennison Theater seats less than 2,000 people, surely, which means if you’re lucky enough to get a seat, and granted it might be difficult to get into see him, you’ll get an up-close-and-personal opportunity to watch the master at work.

And yeah, tickets probably are sold out, but that doesn’t give you the excuse to give up trying. The secondary market still has tickets, for sure, and until you try, like, really try, to find a way to get into that theater to watch him perform, you don’t ever know if you could have gotten in to see him or not. Don’t be discouraged until the show already is over, young Padawan.

4) There are some things in this world that you cannot place a price on, with this show being a prime example.

Let us talk about costs, shall we? If you have children, what is their safety worth to you in terms of dollars and cents? What about your own health or the health of your loved ones? If you needed to have a kidney replaced, would you not do it because you can’t afford it?

No, of course not.

This show might not be as crucial to you as those examples, but it’s pretty damn close.

By saying “Oh, well, I wanted to go see him, but I can’t afford the $39 to $59 tickets” simply means you don’t value what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you’d rather have that money to spend on something that you perceive as necessary such as cigarettes or your morning lattes or new shoes.

Speaking personally here, it bothers me to no end when people consistently complain about how expensive live entertainment is, even when the price is more than reasonable. I’ve heard people complain tickets are too much when they’re $15 to see a high-quality touring band. Paying $60 to see a living master is ridiculous.

I’m not so insensitive to understand that for many people, money is a real concern and that if you can’t afford to eat or keep your home heated, you probably can’t afford to go see any concert, even if it was Jesus Christ himself playing with Led Zeppelin and the reincarnated Elvis Presley.

But, let’s remember that as we go through life, there are only so many moments we will ever have that will be remembered the rest of our days. This could be one of them. Don’t let money stop you, unless it absolutely, positively has to. Which brings me to my last point….

5) This could very well be the last time Don McLean plays in Montana

Let’s face facts here. The dude is 68 years old. While he seems to be in good health and he could just as well return to play here next year, the fact is nobody knows. The window of opportunity is only open for so long before it might be closed forever.

While I tend to be an optimistic guy and when I miss a big show I look at it positively and tell myself that the band or artist I so wanted to see will likely be around again soon in my lifetime, with these older musicians, it’s very much more up in the air.

It’s all a mystery, so when you get the chance you need to take it seriously and consider the options of what you’d feel like if you had a sliver of an opportunity of going to go see him and you passed on it because something else you thought was more important right now, in the bigger picture wasn’t all that important at all.

Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. Go see Don McLean already, will ya? You’ll thank me later, I promise.


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