I got to see Loreena McKennitt for only the third time in my life while I was in Tokyo and got a chance to speak with her. Here’s a copy of the write-up I did for the Old-Ways mailing list…
Loreena spent about a week touring Japan with The Chieftains, including three shows over two days in Tokyo. I attended the final show on the last day (1995-12-04), as did a few other old-ways list members, though I didn’t get the chance to meet any of them.
The Tokyo concerts were held at the Globe Theater, a modern version of the Old Globe, and a place that seated about 350 people. However, the crowd in attendance was definitely there to see The Chieftains, and probably saw Loreena only as a hinderance to seeing the main act.
Loreena came to Tokyo with only Brian Hughes in tow, and started off the show at 19:05 with four songs, including She Moved Through The Fair, The Bonny Swans, and Prospero’s Speech. Twenty minutes later, it was over. The crowd gave polite applause, but did not even come close to requesting an encore. After all, they were there to see The Chieftains.
The response to the main act was much more enthusiastic. The Chieftains played for close to two hours, including a second encore set after the house lights had been raised but the audience refused to leave and demanded more. Loreena and Brian sat in with the band on a few numbers including a rendition of her Bonny Portmore.
Unfortunately, the concert lacked that magical feel that Loreena concerts usually invoke. Perhaps because I was sitting on the second (of three) level, in a corner with little sound getting to me, and the fact that her set was so short. It also didn’t help that I was not enamored of The Chieftains, who perform mostly instrumental Irish music.
The after-concert happenings made up for any prior disappointment though. Old-Ways list members had been told that they would be able to “meet-and-greet” Loreena after the show and to enquire at the venue as to the specific place and time. Because this was the last show in Japan, an end-of-tour party was being held after the concert at a nearby pub, and Old-Ways members were invited to come along.
The party featured tons of food (pizza, mini-drumsticks, fish cakes, paella) and an open bar. Brian Hughes happened to wander over so I spoke with him for a while, covering various topics including Seeds of Love. Among other things, I mentioned that I was surprised to see in the liner notes that Loreena had composed that tune in 1981, and that those of us who saw her perform it in concert had wondered where it came from. He said that the first time he practiced with Loreena, back in 1987, she had played it, but it just never made it into print before now.
After grabbing a bit more food (I hadn’t eaten since my lunch of Burmese Moo Hin Nga and it was now after 22:00), my friend and I wandered over to Loreena, who was now standing by herself. We just chatted for a long while, until it was time for her to leave. It was really nice to talk to her in such a casual setting, as one might do with anyone with whom one had a casual acquaintance, talking about subjects as varied as her business philosophy and her upcoming vacation plans.