Lindsey Stirling packs concert with variety, self-help
CLEARWATER -- Dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling packed Ruth Eckerd Hall on Tuesday with fans, then worked hard to see that they got their money's worth. Stirling, 30, probably burned up a couple thousand calories on her third world tour, dub-stepping up staircases and leaping off platforms, all the while playing an emotive electric violin.
She changed outfits several times in a little under two hours, nearly every costume involving a another pair of sneakers. At this pace, it won't be long before she has to change those, too.
Lavishly jammed with slick video imagery, the concert mirrored Stirling's kitchen sink style. We're talking glaciers (for her hit, Crystallize), fire, pastoral countryside, clouds, snow flurries, fireflies and rain. She delves into vaguely Buddhist symbolism in Mirage and a circus-themed sequence, all accompanied by versatile dancers and the relentless musician herself.
A Stirling concert is the performing-arts equivalent of a 12-course meal, equal parts elevated and down to earth, crème brulee and jelly beans. It's a mixture so eclectic record companies told her only a few years ago that she could never succeed. Instead, her YouTube videos attracted millions of viewers, and Stirling lasted to the quarter-finals of America's Got Talent. As the concert wore on, Stirling talked about lessons learned through rejection.
She didn't name names and didn't have to. An easily searchable video shows America's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan in 2010 telling Stirling that while she was "not untalented," her playing "sounded to me like a bunch of rats being strangled."
His message: Lose the dancing. But Stirling knew her audience better than the judges. Her eponymous debut album went gold; her concerts sell out worldwide. One of her many original songs Tuesday, Something Wild, was commissioned by Walt Disney Pictures for the 2016 animated movie, Pete's Dragon.
For a newcomer to Stirling, it's hard to escape a fuddy-duddy concern about sensory overload verging on floridity. Besides the violin she plays with a storytelling flair, under grueling self-imposed constraints and in a manner no one else does or maybe can, with buzzing light towers and sound blasting out of 30 speakers, do we really also need the elephant and the circus tent the tiger sprinting toward the heart-shaped ring of fire, to cite just a couple of random examples out of hundreds? It's like asking if you can have butter pecan ice cream layered with coconut shavings, almonds and chocolate, whipped cream and a cherry.
Apparently the answer is yes because Stirling dreamed up these images, and if life has taught her anything it is to live her dreams. She said it best herself in a moving recounting of the America's Got Talent experience.
"It's not the critic who counts," she told the crowd toward the end of the night. "Credit goes to the man who is actually in the arena." Her song, The Arena, from her recently released album, Brave Enough, followed.
Among her cheering fans was Jane Ssa, 10, who studies violin at the Patel Conservatory and met Stirling at a meet-and-greet before the concert.
"She asked for my name and I gave her a hug," Jane said. "I felt really excited to meet her and she autographed my violin."