June 23, 2014 | « back

OMAHA WORLD-HERALD – Enthralled fans shower James Taylor with love

By: Kevin Coffey

As a rule, singer-songwriters with acoustic guitars and heartfelt ballads don’t play arenas.

But then there’s James Taylor, whose earnest and happy-faced voice crushed a nearly three-hour show Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

More than 10,000 people packed the arena to see the legendary singer-songwriter show off songs from his decadeslong career, including “Fire & Rain” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You).”

With his 11-member All-Star Band, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer kept the audience rapt through a 24-song set.

Throughout his entertaining show, Taylor told lots of stories about writing songs, two of which involved run-ins with the Beatles, whom he considered idols.

In the first, he spoke of auditioning for Apple Records with “Something in the Way She Moves.”

“It was me in a room with my guitar, George Harrison and Paul McCartney,” Taylor said. “It’s not the first song I wrote, but it’s the oldest one I’m willing to play in public.”

Fans cheered that story, but they were surprised at the origins of “Carolina on My Mind.” It was on his mind because, when he was “just a kid,” he was a fly on the wall while the Fab Four recorded the “White Album.” He was next door recording his own album, and he was homesick.

“In spite of being surrounded by this holy host, I was still really homesick,” he said before beginning to finger-pick the opening melody to “Carolina.” “And this song was the result.”

In a denim shirt and jeans, the understated singer-songwriter generally kept things mellow. Only occasionally did he arise from his stool and only once did he pick up an electric guitar.

His quiet and deliberate songs didn’t keep fans from hooting at Taylor, 66, or professing their undying love.

During a short intermission, they didn’t let him take a break and instead hounded him for autographs and photos near the stage, and he was too nice of a guy to turn anyone down.

It took until the second set for fans to get out of their seats and sing along. Up until then, the fans generally preferred to sit in reverent silence. They seemed in awe.

When Taylor moved on to his blues parody “Steamroller Blues,” things began to heat up. By “Up on the Roof” and “Mexico,” most fans were on their feet singing the words, swaying to the beat and cheering on Taylor and his band.

Much of their enthusiasm was due to the playing of Taylor’s backing musicians, who were able to play with the rolling rock of a freight train or the sweet subtlety of a quiet mouse.

Taylor’s All-Star Band is truly made up of all-star players. Heavy hitters such as saxophonist “Blue” Lou Marini of the Blues Brothers Band, session drummer Steve Gadd and prolific songwriter (and Taylor’s backup singer) David Lasley. You may not know them by name, but you’ve certainly heard them if you’ve listened to music over the past several decades.

When Taylor made it to his encore, fans didn’t want him to leave. They got to their feet for “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” and sang with Taylor and his quartet of backing singers. A sax solo from Marini sealed it as one of the best songs of the night.

The fans stayed on their feet and kept their voices ready for “Shower the People,” and even stuck around for Taylor’s finale, the slow summer song “Wild Mountain Thyme.”

After his songs finished, he stood and let the applause shower down on him.

Finally, he spoke. “Some of you Cornhuskers are extremely attractive,” he said. “Thank you, Lincoln.”