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Review: Daniel O’Donnell takes Cambridge audience on a trip down memory lane





Tonight’s performance from Daniel O’Donnell, one of the biggest names in Irish music – and a household name on both sides of the Irish Sea – was welcomed by an enthusiastic audience at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Friday, May 12.

Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Adrian Peel
Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Adrian Peel

The proceedings began with a video released to celebrate the singer’s 60th birthday in 2021, featuring interviews with friends and family – and a birthday greeting from country superstar Garth Brooks – as well as photographs from his life, including images of him with showbiz pals such as Sir Cliff Richard.

An extremely warm reception greeted the sparkly jacket-clad icon as he took to the stage following the enjoyable and heartwarming video, flanked by five top-quality musicians and two female backing singers.

Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo
Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo

Although he did say that he and the band would be doing some of the songs from last year’s I Wish You Well album, Daniel assured us that tonight would focus more on reminiscing and looking back over his 40-year career – and what a career it’s been.

Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo
Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo

Early highlights in what was a show of two halves – a glorious of mix of nostalgia and current – included superb foot-tapper Footsteps and a gorgeous rendition of Roses are Red, both of which showcased the star’s smooth vocal style. His love of American country music was also demonstrated throughout the evening – notable examples in the first half included Conway Twitty’s Hello Darlin’ and John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane.

Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo
Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo

Daniel also played songs he had a hand in writing, such as Erin, Tennessee, and recounted some of the stories behind them. Indeed, with a Daniel O’Donnell show you get so much more than just music – stories, jokes (he told a couple of very funny ‘Paddy and Mick’ jokes) and shout-outs to friends and family members (his brother-in-law was in attendance) in the audience.

He also posed for pictures (“Is this for Facebook?!”), read out messages from people in the room, delivered birthday greetings, went off to change jackets, and picked up and kissed a three-month-old baby who was in the front row.

Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo
Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo

The affable entertainer also celebrated some of the biggest names in music. The first half ended with a slew of Elvis songs, and then in the second part, tribute was paid to recently-departed country legends Charley Pride and Loretta Lynn (the latter with his talented backing singers taking centre stage), as well as to Johnny Cash, finding room for the Man in Black’s signature tune, Ring of Fire.

It was also nice to hear Daydream Believer by The Monkees and I Just Want to Dance with You, made famous by the great George Strait. Perhaps inevitably, given its recent resurgence, Sweet Caroline featured too – another popular sing-along and a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.

Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo
Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo

There were also songs about Ireland – and Daniel’s birthplace of County Donegal – highlights of which included Forty Shades of Green and Home to Donegal, as well as moving spiritual numbers like How Great Thou Art. As well as his sublime singing, the charismatic performer’s dance moves also drew a great deal of appreciation – particularly from his female fans.

Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo
Daniel O'Donnell live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, May 12, 2023. Picture: Maria Escobedo

‘Wee Daniel’, as he’s affectionately known in Ireland, later revealed that he had been diagnosed with a chest infection the previous week – though we would never have guessed. That’s what comes from being a consummate professional with decades of experience to draw from, as well as an all-round entertainer who is still at the top of his game.



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