Band name-James Taylor
Band members-James Taylor
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By Ashley Balogh
Imagine getting a huge hug from James Taylor, and that’s just how his August 15th concert felt.
The veteran singer/songwriter, who says his “lucky break” came in 1968 when the Beatles signed him to Apple Records, played to a packed audience of all ages, shapes, and sizes. The one thing everyone seemed to have in common at the Chevy Theater that night was a love for this talented and seasoned musician. Taylor also displayed his chops as an all-around performer, often joking and relating anecdotes from both his career and personal life.
Taylor began the show with the tender and affectionate tune, “Something in the Way She Moves,” which he claimed to be “the first presentable song I wrote.” Accompanied by Larry Golden on piano, he went on to play “Never Die Young,” “Frozen Man,” and “Mean Old Man,” a few lesser-known, but still impressive and engaging pieces. He sang evenly and easily with a benevolent smile, and despite his age his voice sounded as fresh as ever.
He played another hit, “Country Road,” and went on to explain that in planning the tour, he intended to work his songs in their basic form, in a “strip-down sort of way.” His compromise with using a drum machine turned out to be wheeled onstage as a huge wooden contraption with a kicking booted leg, and parts that looked like pistons. The machine hammered as Taylor chanted the lyrics to “Slap Leather” through a megaphone and scooted back and forth across the stage. He looked like he was having a blast, and I’d certainly never seen anything like this before. I definitely didn’t expect it from the seemingly serene James Taylor, but he was definitely jamming.
James Taylor pictured above
Taylor also got experimental with his next song, “My Traveling Star,” when he featured video footage from his wife’s singing group, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, as they performed back-up vocals. After that, he played the Carole King devotion he first popularized, “You’ve Got a Friend.” Before the intermission, J.T. plugged in his electric guitar for the upbeat “Mexico,” with a good video band contribution of saxophone, trumpet, and drums.
Taylor returned from intermission signing autographs for front-row fans, and as he embraced a small boy onstage, I wondered if this man could be any more heartwarming. He went electric again with “Steamroller,” his most bluesy tune. What was interesting about this rendition, though, was the fact that he sang the cheesy lyrics (e.g. “I’m a cement mixer/ A churning urn of burning funk) in a mocking fashion, as if he wouldn’t expect us to take such a song seriously. It was nice to see that he’s not afraid to poke fun at himself, and we all had a good laugh.
The second set included “Shower the People,” (also featuring the Tanglewood Festival Chorus), and for the first time that night the audience clapped with the song as Taylor snapped his fingers onstage. He then slowed down the pace with his cowboy lullaby “Sweet Baby James,” and the homesick “Carolina in My Mind.” “Fire and Rain,” arguably his most widely known song, came next before Taylor made a fake exit (sans guitar) with “Shed a Little Light.”
He responded to “Encore!” cheers with an extended, amped up version of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” while the audience stood up and sang along. I was most excited to hear “Copperline” before he ended the show. Just as he delivered his previous tunes, he seemed so earnest with this nostalgic coming-of-age song that never fails to give me goosebumps. His last song before saying goodbye was the gentle, optimistic, “You Can Close Your Eyes.”
James Taylor definitely knows how to put on a show, and at almost sixty years old, he’s still got what it takes to really move an audience. The whole experience was unique, impressive, and a genuinely good time; in short, I don’t see how anyone could have left that show remotely in sour spirits.