McDermott sings soulful, powerful sets
By Johanna Crosby
June 18, 2007 6:00 AM
HYANNIS — John McDermott invited his audience to sing along during his concert Saturday night at the Cape Cod Melody Tent.
"I don't care. I'm not sitting next to you," he quipped.
McDermott's casually paced show felt more like an intimate evening in a neighborhood pub with a friend. Granted, this famous friend can sing circles around anyone.
Dressed all in black, his shaggy mane now mostly gray, McDermott possesses an easygoing, low-key style, the balladeer's gentle humor, dry wit and engaging manner ingratiated him to his fans , he delivered two solid sets of pleasing Celtic tunes, traditional folk songs and patriotic music that showcase his crystalline, rich tenor.
Many of the songs in his carefully selected repertoire tell stories of war, love, loss and history, including Gordon Lightfoot's "Home From the Forest," a poignant song about an old homeless veteran, and the heart-tugging "The Old Man," a bittersweet song about a son's loving memories of his father.
McDermott's lilting voice is made for wistful songs like "My Bonnie." A highlight of the evening was his beautiful rendition of "Danny Boy," which was introduced by a haunting flute solo.
The singer was backed by four talented musicians who were given time to shine in the spotlight. The sax player delivered a smoky solo, followed by guitarist Jason Fowler, who played a jaunty tune. But the big hit was energetic violinist Anne Lindsay, who plucked her playful original tune, which earned her hearty applause.
McDermott, who was born in Scotland but reared in Toronto, sings patriotic songs (the ones you only hear on the Fourth of July), with a fervor that is deeply moving. His stirring rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" gave me goosebumps, as did his sweeping rendition of "America."
The singer, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's Bob Hope Award, is dedicated to veterans' causes — a commitment that is important in both his personal life and as a theme in his music. He paid tribute to servicemen, police and firefighters who put their lives on the line with "Legacy," a moving song he penned in honor of the victims and rescuers of Sept. 11. He invited veterans in the audience to stand up.
McDermott showed his deep spiritual side. His voice soared in a Gospel music-tinged rendition of "Amazing Grace" and a reverent "How Deep the Father's Love." Equally pleasing was his lush rendition of "Shenandoah."
For a change of pace, guitarist Jason Fowler joined McDermott for a delightful duet of the folksy tune "Souvenirs."
McDermott didn't mention the cherished mementos he keeps onstage during his concerts: his father's cap and his mother's scarf, which were attached to a "magic cane." But he patted them affectionately as he left the stage.