An Evening with James.....Taylor

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend But I always thought that I’d see you again.

I don’t like name-dropping but, well, we spent what felt like an intimate evening with James Taylor last night – a wonderful way to bring summer to a close. “We” included a few thousand other souls, in addition to my family, but it felt as if James was conversing with each and every one one of us. Billed as an “intimate retrospective of 40 years of songs”, the tour began in Connecticut, over a week ago, and will end September 9th at Radio City Music Hall. The show is simple in design, without back-up singers or a band, something which could have made a few of the songs flop, but handled nicely by video projection and a really great sound system.

Back in the days when James had hair and I wore hip-huggers, I was not “into” concert-going, no matter the venue. There was no escaping the whole purple-blue haze scene which I hated. It was nice to see that audiences have grown up, “maturing” into well-behaved adults – some still able and desiring to belt out a “woooooooooooo” of approval. It was also nice to see that Jame’s angry-pensive-sullen-young-man persona had mellowed.

He was comfortable with himself. He loved the attention of the audience. He was relaxed, sweet, gracious and kind, letting everyone know he was enjoying and loving every moment of life. His thigh-slapping sense of humour was a pleasant surprise. Who knew he was witty! His drum machine, huge, mechanical, antithetical to the electronic age (which he claimed to have made with his own hands with a nod of thanks for the training he’d received in his high school woodworking class) was bizarre, quirky and amazing.

He loved to talk, several times charmingly sheepish, apologizing because his song introductions were longer than the songs themselves. Thankfully, he didn’t try to edit or shorten his commentary. On several occasions, he mentioned his “little” brother “Liv”, a singer/songwriter well known throughout New England, as strong a believer in Jesus Christ, as James is an unbeliever. When James talked about their spiritual differences, he didn’t disparage or mock his brother’s beliefs, but instead, wistfully discussed their differences, honestly hitting the nail on the head with the Biblical truth that while his brother is “drawn to his faith”, James is not. It was with sadness I listened to his song and verse, with its undercurrent of pining for restored relationships, and love that was lost, finding myself praying that someday he would come to know the Truth of Christ.

The only thing I’d have done differently is to order tickets earlier, getting front-section seats, increasing our autograph chances. He spent a copious amount of energy giving out autographs – to the point the audience begged for him to exchange the pen for his guitar.

And, as my husband pointed out to me, the next morning when we were talking about what a nice evening we’d had, James will have to change his entire show format before we can see him again. His performance felt so spontaneous, genuine and real, that it would feel surreal to see him do the same show night after night to a new roomful of strangers – almost like we’d been cheated on.

We went for the music which turned out to be inspirational to my 11-year-old daughter who came home determined, more than ever, to practice her guitar until she could play like him.

As wonderful as it was to hear his songs performed live, it was his repartee that made the evening brilliant. I’ve always loved James Taylor’s music, but it was a joy to get a little glimpse of James Taylor the person.

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