The Mystic's Dream

Loreena McKennitt in Dallas.

If you're a fan of Loreena McKennitt, you've most likely only heard her albums or watched her DVDs. She seldom tours and when she does it's rarely in this part of the country. Her show Tuesday night at Grand Prairie's Nokia Theatre outside Dallas - only her third performance ever in Texas - was a revelation to fans seeing her live for the first time. That voice, so crystalline on album, is even more gorgeous live.

Bathed in stagelights of rich jewel tones amid a set that suggested the Alhambra or perhaps a Gothic chapel, the Canadian-born performer captivated the audience of approximately 1,000 with her divine vocals and playing. Cherry picking songs from her recent CD, An Ancient Muse, and her back catalog, the concert was sublime, an event by a performer of unparalleled talent and vision.

McKennitt's love for Celtic culture found its way into traditional ballads such as "She Moved Through the Fair," "Bonny Portmore," and "The Bonny Swans," and poems set to music such as "The Lady of Shalott." Longtime favorites "The Mystic's Dream," "Raglan Road," and "Santiago" drew a rousing response from the audience, which consisted of a disproportionate number of women in Loreena McKennitt costumes and men with ponytails wearing puffy-sleeved shirts.

Clear favorites emerged throughout the evening: Newer tunes like "The Gates of Istanbul," which melted with liquid grace into the quiet of the hall, as well as her adaptation of Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman," her own exquisite "Dante's Prayer," and her breakout chart topper, "The Mummer's Dance." The ninepiece band accompanying her wove golden threads of aural beauty throughout her material, particularly cellist Caroline Lavelle, who acts as McKennitt's musical foil with her instrument's drone.

Closing the two-hour séance with "Never-ending Road," McKennitt took time to address to the audience, as she had several times during the night. She offered the observation that putting together an album was like collecting the ingredients for recipes that needed "a dinner party" to see how they tasted. Amid shouts of "We love you, Loreena," she graciously thanked the audience for attending and expressed a "deep appreciation for your neck of the woods."

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