As a delayed 50th birthday celebration/gift, my daughters took me out last night to see James Taylor in concert (Charlotte NC). I can’t remember just how many times I’ve seen JT in concert altogether ( as many as I could get to). For sure, as the decades have passed, the show has only gotten better. Last night, JT and his Band of Legends rocked again.
James Taylor and his Band of Legends:
Luis Conte – percussion
Walt Fowler – horns, keys
Steve Gadd – drums
Larry Goldings – piano, keyboards
Jimmy Johnson – bass
Michael Landau – electric guitar
David Lasley – vocals
Lou Marini – horns
Kate Markowitz – vocals
Arnold McCuller – vocals
Andrea Zonn – vocals, fiddle
I loved hearing the old JT standards–Carolina, Mexico, Steamroller, You’ve Got A Friend, and others–but I was delighted to hear a few borrowed tunes as well, especially Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett) and Knock on Wood (Eddie Floyd / Steve Cropper). Another really nice addition to the show was Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman–which I’ve never heard sung by anyone else other than Glen Campbell. That tune took me back to the late sixties and the folk/pop/country songs of Campbell, Mac Davis, Gordon Lightfoot, and John Hartford. I loved that music back then, and I guess I still do. Hearing Wichita Lineman last night just brought it all back home to me. I don’t think anyone other than James Taylor could have done that for me. Moreover, no one other than JT could have resurrected Lineman with such grace.
The Band of Legends was tight.
Although no other pianist in the world could have replaced the late Don Grolnick, Larry Goldings is pretty darn close. And Jimmy Johnson is an amazing ensemble player who brings out the musicianship of the others with his melodic bass lines. I really enjoy enjoy his calm demeanor and groove. The legends in JT’s group come together like a family of brothers and sisters with equal talent and style. It’s pretty easy to tell that this group of musicians stick together off the stage as well as in the concert spotlight.
The audience was legend, too.
The folks in the pavilion seats and on the lawn pretty much all looked familiar to me. It was later, after the concert, that I thought about the faces in the crowd and how the congregation was the familiar batch of ticket holders that stood in line back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s–just a little older. There were three generations of JT fans in our little band of groupies–my mom, myself, and my daughters (ages 23-70). I’d say that’s pretty significant as an indication of JT’s legend status, wouldn’t you? How many performing artists can claim such a broad and ongoing multi-generational appeal? I hope I get the chance to see James Taylor in concert on my 60th birthday. And in addition to myself, my mom and daughters, I expect my little grandson will be in line, too.
Sweet Baby James was the birthday gift I received in 1970 when I turned 12 years old. A part of me will always associate that event as a coming of age because that LP was the cornerstone of my music career. Last night was one of the sweeter reminders of age and experience. For that, I am grateful. JT’s ageless melody, his humble stage presence, and his kind, soft humor was just the thing to make me realize that 50 is not so bad. In fact, 50 is a sweet place to be.