November 24, 2014 | « back

GREENVILLEONLINE.COM — Review: James Taylor displays stellar musicianship in Greenville

By Donna Isbell Walker

James Taylor filled Bon Secours Wellness Arena with an easygoing spirit of fun and an impressive display of musicianship on Saturday night.

The singer-songwriter performed a 21/2-hour show that wound its way through his extensive musical catalog, with a few interesting detours along the way, brief forays into blues, country, even a touch of Latin music.

Taylor opened the show with “Something in the Way She Moves,” from his 1968 debut album, his voice at age 66 seemingly unchanged in all those years.

The two dozen songs ranged from familiar classics, like “Fire and Rain” and “Country Road,” to lesser-known gems such as “One More Go-Round” and the Celtic-flavored “Wild Mountain Thyme.”

Taylor’s stage banter demonstrated an easy rapport with his audience and a few hints of self-deprecating humor, as when he prefaced a song by describing it as “another of those tree-hugger anthems.”

He introduced the hit “Sweet Baby James” by talking of how he wanted to write a “cowboy lullaby” for his namesake nephew who, 44 years later, has grown into a “big ol’ thing.”

For “Steamroller,” he turned the place into his own little blues club. Accompanied by his Carolina-blue electric guitar, Taylor channeled the spirit of a grizzled old bluesman, contorting his face, scatting some lyrics, wailing on the harmonica and duck-walking across the stage.

“Shower the People” offered lovely harmonies, along with a chiming guitar solo from Taylor, then finished up with a soul-stirring vocal contribution from backup singer Arnold McCuller.

And the crowd-pleasing “Mexico” brought the audience to its feet for a salsa-powered number highlighted by the stellar percussion work of Luis Conte.

A musical legend like Taylor has no trouble drawing an audience to his show; his performance proved why they keep coming back.