May 31, 2023 | « back

LASVEGASSUN.COM – James Taylor returns to the Strip for a concert series at the Cosmopolitan

By Brock Radke

A Las Vegas Strip headlining residency seems to make a lot of sense for a lot more artists these days. With lots of different-sized venues and a constant stream of ticket-buyers, any musician with superstar status could hypothetically qualify, and the convenience of a Vegas residency versus a national or global tour is always appreciated.

But it’s not that simple; one show doesn’t fit all. Consider a legend like James Taylor, the 75-year-old singer and songwriter who came to town for a special engagement at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in 2019 and returns to the Strip this week for five concerts at the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan starting on Friday. (Tickets start at $63 for his June 3, 4, 7, 9 and 10 performances at Ticketmaster.)

Taylor could almost certainly lock down a residency at either of those two theaters, but more Vegas time could cut into his healthy touring schedule. “I’m still a road dog and happy to ride the bus and play the one-nighters,” he told me last week while preparing for a pair of shows at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery outside Seattle. He has two more concerts in Southern California before landing at the Cosmo.

“This time we are out there for about a 10-day stretch, and there is something great about being able to stay in one place, particularly for the crew and the band. Setting up and breaking down every 24 hours can be grueling,” Taylor said. “Playing in one place for a week gives you a break from that, plus we’ve got a number of crew members and band members that live in Las Vegas, so they’ll be home.”

His famous drummer Steve Gadd is one of those Las Vegans, but Taylor doesn’t consider the members of His All-Star Band to actually be his. “This band is my pride and joy, and being able to have these world famous players onstage, in a way, that’s the main accomplishment of my career, that I can hold this band together,” he said. “Each of them has their own touring life, their own audience and body of work.”

The rest of the All-Stars are fiddler Andrea Zonn, pianist Larry Goldings, sax player Lou Marini, keyboard and horn player Walt Fowler, guitarist Michael Landau, bassist Jimmy Johnson, percussion player Luis Conte, and vocalists Arnold McCuller, Kate Markowitz, Dorian Holley, and Taylor’s son Henry.

This will mark the first time at the Chelsea for the band and its frontman, and Taylor is excited for the debut because it’s the right size that allows the concert to “feel like theater.” You can expect a similar setlist each night in Las Vegas, stocked with classics like “Fire and Rain,” “Carolina in My Mind” and “Country Road,” as well as some well-placed covers and songs from his more recent releases “American Standard” and “Before This World.”

But we probably shouldn’t expect a full-on James Taylor residency. When we tally our vote to add him to the Strip’s portfolio along with Adele, Garth Brooks and U2, he lets out a brief laugh. Setting up shop in Las Vegas is still a bit of an odd concept for an artist known for breaking through with folk music in the 1960s.

“There was a period of time in the ’70s when I was just starting to tour and the associations people had with Las Vegas was the Rat Pack days, a lounge lizard sensibility, and it was as if the counterculture was turned off by it,” he said. “But two things happened. As time goes by, even if you felt like you were avant-garde or on the cutting edge, you inevitably move toward the center. And Las Vegas itself has changed. It’s probably unrecognizable from those times.”

It became comfortable for Taylor to perform in Las Vegas, first as a tour stop at the Thomas & Mack Center, then for longer engagements like this one as the city’s entertainment landscape continued to evolve.

“In the’70s it was anathema to how my generation of musicians, sort of the Baby Boom, Woodstock generation, saw itself and identified itself, and the Grammys, for that matter,” he said. “Basically everything about the showbusiness establishment was suspect. It took time. But Las Vegas became more and more attractive from my point of view, and at this point I’m happy to play wherever my audience will show up.”