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Stirling flies high in musical fun fest

By Tim O’Shei

News Contributing Reviewer

LEWISTON – To think just fours years ago, “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan told Lindsey Stirling her high-octane violin music sometimes sounded “like a bunch of rats being strangled.”

Judging by every conceivable factor, from Stirling’s millions of online fans to the nearly full mainstage crowd for which she played Thursday night at Artpark in Lewiston, Morgan was mistaken. But that’s not even the point.

The only thing Stirling’s strings are exterminating is any preconceived notion of what a violinist – or a dancer, or a pop star – should be.

“I dance when I play the violin – that’s breaking a societal norm,” the 27-year-old Stirling told the crowd, before asking everyone to break their own norms and introduce themselves, Sunday-morning church style, to nearby strangers.

Stirling, who moved on from a quarterfinals rejection on AGT to build a fan base of millions on YouTube, told the audience that she knows of at least four now-married couples who met through her concerts.

“Maybe you just met your new best friend,” Stirling said before launching into a violin rendition of “All of Me,” which she previously performed with John Legend on YouTube.

It was one of a handful of soft moments in what was otherwise a highly charged 90-minute instrumental set.

Flanked by a pair of backup musicians and two dancers, Stirling led the way with her electric violin. She played mostly her own compositions, which represent a melting pot of genres: rock, dubstep, classical, and a touch of hip hop.

(Unfamiliar? Check out these hauntingly good originals on YouTube: “Crystallize,” “Beyond the Veil” and “Shatter Me.”)

The crowd skewed toward the MTV demographic but had a healthy helping of, say, a PBS audience, too. Behind me, for example, sat a 75-year-old woman who appeared to be with her teen granddaughter. To my side was a family of 40-something parents and three school-age children.

Colorful and kinetic, Sterling’s show appealed across that spectrum. A large circular screen and two smaller video boards served up a constant array of graphics. Stirling, bathed in fog and stage lights, rarely stopped moving, the violin serving not only as an instrument, but also as a prop for her choreography that melds ballet with contemporary and hip hop dance.

The spectacle was reminiscent of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show, albeit a scaled-down and much more personal one.

Stirling showed home videos of her childhood years and joked about replicating Lady Gaga’s onstage costume changes.

And though she didn’t name her naysayers, Stirling spoke openly about overcoming their criticism.

“Everyone always told me I was too different and I had to change,” she said, “that I’d never make a living doing what I want to do.”

But Stirling, who’s taken the indie artist (versus major label) route seems to understand that disproving reality show judges and record-industry executives isn’t really the goal.

More important is building and connecting with your fan base, and Stirling does that masterfully.

“You guys watched my videos,” Stirling told the audience as her show neared its end. “You made my dreams come true.”

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