August 5, 2016 | « back

BOSTONHERALD.COM — James Taylor, Jackson Browne collab a home run

By Jed Gottlieb

Collaborations have added an awesome energy to this concert season: John Mayer playing with members of the Grateful Dead, Sting and Peter Gabriel touring together, Paul McCartney inviting Rob Gronkowski to dance onstage to “Helter Skelter.” Wait, scratch that Gronk/Macca team-up.

Last night, James Taylor returned to Fenway Park, this time with Jackson Browne in tow. Both performed sets full of deep cuts and songs everybody knows by heart with crack bands. But the night’s most musical, joyous moments came when the two shared the stage.

Browne invited Taylor to join him on “For a Rocker” and Eagles hit “Take It Easy,” which Browne wrote with Glenn Frey. Taylor may be the bigger star, but he spent the two tunes grinning ear to ear — eternal nice guy, he even tried to help the guitar tech swap Browne’s instruments.

Later Taylor returned the favor when he interrupted his string of favorites to bring Browne to lead everyone through “Doctor My Eyes.” All night long JT held the park in his hand only to defer to his buddy during the encore. And he was right to — the hot band cracked and popped as the two friends dueted through the minor masterpiece.

JT constantly champions his musicians — he made sure to hug or shake hands with each band member after he introduced them. But the icon probably could have wowed the crowd alone with his guitar.

Last week, Taylor told the Herald that Fenway has a unique energy, that the place gets “people on their feet quicker.” While the baby-boomer-dominated sold-out house spent a lot of time in their seats, the Massachusetts native spurred them into whoops, cheers and a half-dozen standing ovations.

As well-worn as his catalog is, Taylor’s classics rang bright and true. The simple picking of “Walking Man” turned a stadium into a temple. The opening harmonies of “Carolina in My Mind” echoed around the grandstands. The sloppy, sweaty, funky blues of “Steamroller” proved the man doesn’t only do AM gold nuggets.

During a maddening and divisive political season, Taylor detoured from his best-known stuff to celebrate the nation and promote unity. He followed a tender rendering of “America the Beautiful” with his own “Shed A Little Light,” a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and his teachings.

Browne’s opening set also slid in a plea for peace, new song “The Long Way Around,” which he dedicated to local John Rosenthal and his organization Stop Handgun Violence. But he spent most of his time singing his hits with a voice straight out of 1977 — “The Pretender,” “Running on Empty” and more.

Taylor told the Herald he’d be interested in making summer Fenway shows a tradition. Boston clearly likes the idea. How about bring Carole King along in 2017?