You think he's just a songwriter, writer/director in theater, producer ("Mr. Kruger's Christmas"), commercial writer/director for Homefront Public Service Commercial for 17 years. (Take a breath!) You think it's enough that he's won Clio awards, the Cannes Film Festival Bronze Lion and three national Emmy Award nominations, not to mention his best-selling musical albums.
You have to see him perform!McLean opens his heart and soul and proceeds to lift his audience to spiritual heights and new insights with laughter and tears, often in the same moment.
To get into the 7:30 p.m. show at Cottonwood High School, McLean's fans started lining up at 6 p.m. If you thought getting there a half hour early would guarantee you a good seat - it was your first McLean concert.
The genial McLean took a portable microphone and ventured into the audience quipping under his breath, "It's the Mormon Oprah!" He asked for requests and brought a blushing young couple celebrating two years of marriage to the stage and played "She Sees a Diamond" for them.
McLean not only played the requested songs but revealed the tender and sometimes painful moments that inspired them. After cueing into Redbook magazine articles left carefully about the house telling how to restore the fire in marriage, McLean surprised his wife by bringing flowers and sparkling catawba juice. He locked their three children, "Gimme," "Lemme Have It" and "Smiles," in the bathroom. He sang her the song he'd written for her and saw her sigh and say, "Are you done? Why don't you vacuum!"
He told of struggling with the ending of "Dairyman's Daughter," sitting at the piano in the family's log home in Heber City. Finally the inspiration came - he could see the woman in the song finally realize that her Heavenly Father was listening to her. The words, "Did you hear me/I can feel you near me/this is the answer/I've been longing for" came in a rush. "I was hearing violins!" McLean quipped as he brought up the tempo sitting at the piano on Cottonwood's stage. He told how he repeated the words of the new ending, swelling the music louder and louder. "Did you hear me?" he sang. Then he said, "Suddenly I heard little voices, `We hear you already! Go to bed!' "
Continuing to wring tears and laughter from his rapt sell-out audience, McLean told about his new neighbors in Heber who came bearing not cookies but a roast. "How do you thank someone for a roast? I was never trained in roast-reception! What do you say, `Mmmm, nice rump!' "
Then he told how this neighbor named Ollie had noticed McLean's shy second-grader struggling with self-esteem and the offer out of the blue to train her for an upcoming equestrian show. "He didn't say, `If you need anything, just call.' He saw a little kid who needed a friend and just stepped in," McLean said. Then he told about writing a song for his daughter, "If you believe in yourself/you can achieve."
It's impossible to capture the highlights in an evening of three hours of highlights. "Will He Ever Come" was written for McLean's grandmother who told her grandson, "I have never killed, but I've read a lot of obituaries with a great deal of satisfaction." But there were also the tender moments from "The Forgotten Carols" where the incredible chorus, Latter-Day Sounds, stood behind a scrim singing, "Let Him In." When the choir sang the song about the young Handel auditioning for the heavenly choir and being told about his future on Earth, McLean directed the singers enthusiastically. When they sang "Wonderful! Counselor!" McLean leaped into the air. Such was the joy of the evening. He leaped, we laughed and cried! Bravo, Mr. McLean, bravo!