(Fox Theatre, Detroit, MI – October 16th, 2007)
After nearly a decade off the scene, Loreena McKennitt returned to the performance and recording stage in 2006 and 2007. The Canadian singer picked up exactly where she left off, traveling through the Celtic-Middle Eastern fusions she explored on 'The Book of Secrets' with her latest studio album, 'An Ancient Muse.'
Coming to Detroit on her current tour in support of last year’s An Ancient Muse complete with a decadent tapestry backdrop, oversized candle cages, and an inspired nine-piece band, the concert was a fine return to form for the Celt-inspired, yet Canadian through and through singer.
As the lights dimmmed on the sadly only one-third filled auditorium, the 'blue' smoke that once sat on the still stage now started to quickly twirl and rise as first Loreena and then the rest of her band came out onto the stage.
And so began a quite enchanting musical performance - broken only by a 15 minute interval - that was as much spellbinding as it was magical. From the moment she sits next to her harp and begins to gently strum it, the audience is captivated, mesmerized, caught in the ethearal glare of an impossible talent. "Thank you very much," three songs in she finally addresses the audience. "This theatre you have here is a beautiful piece of architecture", she continues, paying comment to the restored Fox Theatre.
Harp, cello, fiddle, hurdy-gurdy and acoustic guitar share space with oud, bouzouki, lyra, tabla, bodhran, stand up bass, kit drums, hand drums and electric guitar. If it seems an impossible task to fit this diaspora of instrumentation into a single song, McKennitt rises to the challenge. Each composition is a carefully researched work; the end result of her deep interest in all things Celt. As she herself explains, in one of her few - but long - chats with the audience, she traced many Celtic roots along the Silk Road, delving into the landscapes of Turkey, Greece and Spain along the way.
As she is something of a perfectionist, there isn't much deviation from the original studio versions, but McKennitt is in fine voice and the band even gets to rock out a few times on tracks like "The Bonny Swans," where violinist Hugh Marsh and guitarist Brian Hughes trade increasingly frantic leads.
Overall, the 2 1/2 hour show was a heady mix of the intellectual, the mystical, and some hot rock concert-worthy solos. After all, it’s not every day you see a musician finesse both the Irish bouzouki and electric guitar in the same song!
Review by Russell A. Trunk