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October 20, 2020
Live Review: James Taylor & His Band of Legends at Tanglewood 7/03/08 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 07 July 2008 16:40
jt.jpgBy Ken Volpe - GJD
Whenever I go to see a living legend perform, I can't help but feel that I am witnessing a part of history in the world of art. Seeing James Taylor and hearing his voice and music at Tanglewood certainly confirmed that idea for me.

My wife and I were fortunate enough to hear James Taylor and his Band of Legends on July 3rd at the famed music venue in Lenox, Massachusetts. Despite the heavy rain showers earlier in the day, the place was packed with fans of all ages, loaded up with blankets, lawn chairs and coolers; they were clearly set to make it an evening to enjoy with their hometown resident.

James and the band started off the first set with an assortment of cover tunes including the classics, "It's Growing," "Get a Job" and "Wichita Lineman." Then they transitioned into "Country Road," and an assortment of JT classics.

Between each song Mr. Taylor would talk to the audience like an old friend. He spoke of the history and told tales about the songs with his usual wry wit. One could tell he truly enjoyed being on stage in front of the hometown crowd. He was quick to also give credit to his crack backup musicians, graciously giving warm individual introductions to each of band members. One could also tell that James was truly grateful to be sharing the stage with these world-class musicians.

The audience particularly enjoyed the songs when James was featured with just his voice and acoustic guitar. His trusty James Olson steel-string guitar is perfect for his compositions. Olson's guitars have that "piano-like" quality that is so rare in an acoustic guitar.

The full band closed the first set with a killer version of "Shed a Little Light." But before James did the tune, he gave a brief soliloquy about the upcoming intermission. He basically admitted to the fans that he doesn't know why they do intermissions, and that they don't really do anything during these intermissions except watch the clock and see when 20 minutes is up. His dry sense of humor, along with his unassuming manner, is quite entertaining. However, the intermission definitely was quite special for my wife and me. We had the privilege of going backstage and saying hi to a couple of the band members; Mike Landau and Steve Gadd.

During the intermission, we also witnessed an obsessed James Taylor fan, one that brings new meaning to the word "stalker." (You thought those types only showed up at rock-and-roll gigs?) You would think that this type of fan wouldn't be associated with this type of laid-back, easygoing artist. But, I'm sure many of these folks still try to adorn him with hotel keys, assorted undergarments and other accoutrements. After all, it is a version of "Rock-and-Roll." Even though James just turned 60 years old, with that voice and that charm, it's nice to know that he still has it going on.

The second set started off with an instrumental blues jam, which featured solos from Mike Landau on electric guitar and most of the band as well. Mike's presence was more evident in the second set. After each one of his solos, my wife and I would jump up and yell "Mikey" at the top of our lungs. Based on the looks that we were getting from the surrounding fans, this seemed to be somewhat out of place. But, since we are huge fans of Mike, we really didn't care.

Mike's tone was great as usual, thanks to his John Suhr guitars and a Suhr Badger amplifier. The second set continued, featuring more James Taylor faves, as in "Sweet Baby James," "Carolina In My Mind," "Steamroller," and more. The set also contained a bunch of R & B covers such as "Knock on Wood" and "Midnight Hour." There was definitely more energy in this set and the crowd was starting to dance. For the latter part of the set, JT traded in his Olson for a Telecaster to rock with the band.

All in all, it was an amazing show. James' voice is still perfect in its fluidity and richness. His stage presence and body language prove that he loves what he is doing. You truly get a sense of what a great songwriter he really is.

However, the overall sound quality did not match the band performance. The low-end was boomy and a bit splattered. You could always hear JT's voice, but some of the individual band parts were lost in the mix. Afterwards, I came to the conclusion that Tanglewood is an indoor-outdoor venue that best caters to classical music. As a result, any sort of rock music does not fare well sonically. This, of course, did not seem to matter at all to the 20,000 delighted fans that came out in support of their neighbor and friend, James Taylor.

James Taylor's new CD will be released this September.

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