CLEVELAND.COM — An appreciative crowd welcomes James Taylor and Jackson Browne to Blossom Music Center after COVID darkened the stage for more than a year
By Brenda Cain, cleveland.com
CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — Jackson Browne and James Taylor played to a throng of enthusiastic and appreciative fans Saturday night at Blossom Music Center and were not shy about returning the love to their fans.
Both performers repeatedly thanked the crowd — which had braved miles-long traffic jams and long security lines — for persevering.
“This is extra-special that so many of you would come out just for us,” Taylor told the crowd after his first number, ‘That’s Why I Am Here.’ “I have so many memories wrapped up in this place, it is amazing to be back after thinking for so long we may not make it.”
Blossom was the second stop for the pair on the tour.
Taylor holds the record for most appearances at Blossom, according to Barry Gabel, Live Nation’s senior vice president of marketing and sponsorship sales. The singer-songwriter has surpassed any other Blossom headliner performing there 25 times in the past five decades. Browne has been a regular at Blossom over the years as well.
The Cleveland Orchestra initiated the summer season when it returned to its summer home for two concerts July 4 weekend, but that ‘dress rehearsal’ may have not been the best indicator for what rock fans would endure for the venue’s first rock show.
Many fans missed most, if not all of Browne’s set, arriving more than an hour after he had taken the stage and saying that police were spot-checking every few vehicles. Once parked, many of those late arrivals were forced to park and walk more than a mile to reach the lawn and pavilion.
For those who arrived before the show, long lines at the gates and ticket office, as well as at food and drink vendors and restrooms, greeted them.
Blossom had anticipated 15,000 – 20,000 fans to attend the show with masks and social distancing “encouraged.”
When Browne took the stage, about 15 minutes after his scheduled start time, the pavilion was about half-full, and the lawn still had plenty of space to spread a blanket. An hour later, the 5,700 pavilion seats were almost full and the lawn was seated shoulder-to-shoulder. Fans were still arriving even after Taylor had appeared on stage.
While masks were few, there were still several concert-goers in the crowd who wore their masks for the entire show.
Both Browne and Taylor are touring to support new music.
Taylor’s “American Standard” was released in March 2020 — “kind of like dropping your new baby into a well,” he said of the guitar renditions of classic songs on the “Standard” album.
Taylor only performed “Easy as Rolling Off a Log;” a song he learned as a child from a Warner Brother’s cartoon, “Katnip Kollege.”
Browne’s set included “My Cleveland Heart,” a song he said came during a drive around Northeast Ohio. It is the first single released from Browne’s latest album “Downhill from Nowhere”. The album was originally set to release in fall 2020, but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was released July 23.
“The person I was driving with said, ‘That’s Cleveland Heart,’” Browne said. “‘That’s where they make artificial hearts.’ I said, ‘Oh, I could use one of those!’”
Even though Browne and Taylor both sang songs they had each performed at their first Blossom appearances — Browne performing “Dr. My Eyes,” and Taylor singing “Fire and Rain” — perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came for Arnold McCuller, one of Taylor’s back-up singers, who is a native Clevelander and performed on stage with his high school choir when it sang with the Cleveland Orchestra at the venue’s opening in 1968.