An unscientific poll suggests that most people only associate Don McLean with his mega-hit “American Pie,” but anyone who has heard “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)” will know that he is no one-hit wonder, but a wonderful storyteller, songwriter, and a singer who can summon emotional nuance with the best of them. This DVD of a 1999 show in Austin, Texas showcases all of these talents. He begins with two of his own songs, “Castles in the Air,” a sad farewell, and the peace anthem “Jerusalem.” Both have lovely melodies, memorable lyrics and beautiful arrangements. McLean showcases his vocal skills on two operatic covers, Marty Robbins’ majestic country tearjerker “You Gave Me a Mountain,” and Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” The film intersperses video interview excerpts with the songs, allowing him to discuss how he conceived and wrote his best-known compositions.
McLean plays rhythm guitar during most of the show, but he is also backed up by his own band and, from time to time, a full orchestra. Texas chanteuse Nanci Griffith joins him for Buddy Holly’s “Raining in My Heart” and McLean’s own “And I Love You So,” a song covered by artists from Perry Como to Elvis. Also memorable is the cleverly sardonic “Fashion Victim,” one of the few songs unfamiliar to me. Although the concert was consistently entertaining, it would be hard to top the encore, a rave-up, singalong “American Pie” that got both the audience and me on our feet.