BOSTONHERALD.COM – ‘Fenway’ faithful: Native son James Taylor elated to play ballpark
By: Jed Gottlieb
James Taylor’s new album has a song that’s, well, tailor-made for his sold-out Thursday show at Fenway Park.
“Angels of Fenway” celebrates the home team and Red Sox nation with shout-outs to the 1918 World Series, the Green Line and a curse reversed. (He also tosses a few knuckleballs at those damn Yankees.) After his new record “Before This World” landed at No. 1 in June — a first for Taylor — many fans might shout out the words with glee at the gig.
“The record will have been out for two months, so I hope people will have heard the song,” James said. “If not, we’ll have the lyrics up on the screen to help people along.”
A nice touch for un-hip fans, but the tune still won’t send chills down the spine when he plays it at the bandbox. Instead, “Sweet Baby James” will tingle 37,000 spines.
When Taylor sings “Sweet Baby James,” when he croons, “Now the first of December was covered with snow/And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston,” the stadium will melt.
“That’s always a powerful point, whether it’s at Tanglewood or Great Woods,” he said. “Wherever in Massachusetts we play it, it’s special.”
Taylor has played Great Woods a few times (and through a few of the venue’s many name changes), and Tanglewood is his second home. But maybe one of our most identifiable native sons had yet to headline Fenway.
Both Taylor and the Sox front office tried for years, but the timing didn’t work out until this year.
“They have very specific holes in the Red Sox season they can do concerts, and that makes it all very tricky,” he said. “We also did things a little upside down with this album. I expected to have the album done in 2013, but I didn’t finish the lyrics on time. We did a lot of touring when we thought the album would be coming out. Now that it’s out, we’re barely touring.
“But that’s turned out well,” he added. “Because this summer we had lots of time to find a Fenway date.”
After years of popping up as a guest during Sox games, Taylor says he’ll find some deep gratification in doing a full set at the park.
As far back as 2004, during the American League Championship he writes about in “Angels of Fenway,” he began thinking about a gig at the park. While working on the West Coast, he watched as the Sox battled back to beat the Yankees after losing the first three games of that series.
“It was a miracle series,” he said. “To play a show where it happened, and to play it with the great Bonnie Raitt (who will open the show), who I haven’t played with in Boston since 1973 at the Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, will be something special.”