concert reviews

Natalie MacMaster at the Birchmere, Alexandria, VA, Wednesday 8 March 2006

After her first three rousing, fiddle-driven tunes Wednesday night at the Birchmere, Natalie MacMaster confessed to the audience that she hadn't heard a note that she had just played, due to a faulty ear monitor.

She laughed off this potentially debilitating setback, beaming with confidence as if she were excited to face the additional challenge.

That eager energy saturated MacMaster's entire performance, which consisted of mostly traditional instrumental Celtic and bluegrass songs from her home of Cape Breton Island, Canada. She bounced and danced as she played, as if performing the Riverdance without missing a note on her fiddle. MacMaster's athleticism continued with a drum-accompanied tap dance that she incorporated into several other numbers as well.

Her two hour-long sets weren't always so showy, though. She often stepped back to showcase her band mates, as on the jazzy "Autumn Leaves" (sung by bassist John Chiasson). The typically tiresome "Danny Boy" received a fresh treatment from guitarist Brad Davidge, and a super-speedy bagpipe solo performed by Matt MacIsaac showed the instrument's versatility beyond the hackneyed dirge. Although two hours of such instrumental music could potentially grow tedious, MacMaster's boundless enthusiasm made the evening fly by.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 10 March 2006; Page C02
.: Selected discography: Blueprint (Natalie MacMaster, 2003); Live (Natalie MacMaster, 2002); My Roots Are Showing (Natalie MacMaster, 2000); In My Hands (Natalie MacMaster, 1999); Fit As a Fiddle (Natalie MacMaster, 1997); No Boundaries (Natalie MacMaster, 1997).