September 26, 2014 | « back

BELFASTTELEGRAPH.CO.UK: James Taylor review: His classic songs remain ageless as he takes to the stage in Belfast

By Michael Conaghan

Of all the survivors from that gilded era of American singer songwriters, James Taylor’s voice easily still remains the most resonant.

His songs captured the growing introspection of a hippy movement, which to paraphrase Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane, spent the 1960s expanding their consciousness and the 1970s trying to get rid of it.

But though Taylor entered the Waterfront Hall with the bemused demeanour of an absent-minded professor, as soon as he sat down to sing Something In The Way She Moves – a song that he auditioned to Paul McCartney and a note-taking George Harrison in 1968 – the years just fell away.

It immediately explained the reasons why he has not been consigned to songwriter’s purdah like others of his generation: that voice and those tunes.

Though best known for his ballads such as You’ve Got a Friend, which he famously duetted with his fellow songwriting legend and friend Carole King, with the help of his excellent band he threw in the occasional nod towards southern style swamp rock, most effectively on Country Roads.

Here he even got to throw in some guitar hero shapes and later traded blues licks with fellow guitarist Michael Landau

But we were never too far away from an era-defining song, be it the homesick lament of Carolina, or, towards the end of the evening, the song that encapsulates James Taylor like no other, Fire and Rain.

It is an apocalyptic lament that remains ageless, and for which the formerly hirsute artist, bedecked in a peaked cap hiding the baldness, seemed to suddenly recapture his youth in all its doomed intensity.

Four stars