MASSLIVE.com – James Taylor closes out two-night stand at Tanglewood in Lenox
By Donnie Moorhouse
LENOX — James Taylor closed out his two night stand at Tanglewood on Friday night with a two-set, three hour performance at the Koussevitzky Shed. Unlike opening night, the Independence Day performance was not impacted by weather.
“We have been tracking Hurricane Arthur all day on the iPad,” said Taylor at the outset of the show. “It has cleared the Berkshires.”
When the show began streaks of sunlight cast long shadows in the shed and gave hope, if little warmth, to the throng on the lawn. It would be a dry night at Tanglewood.
Taylor opened the performance backed by bass, guitar, and drums along with his four backing vocalists. That ensemble would grow as the set list expanded to include horns, keyboards, and a percussionist.
The set began with “Something in the Way She Moves,” a song Taylor said he used to audition for Paul McCartney and George Harrison that would get him signed to Apple Records.
He was in a storytelling mood and Taylor shared that some of the songs from the
evening, including “Lo and Behold” were written “right across the path there at Austen Riggs” the Stockbridge psychiatric treatment facility where he spent time in the late 60s recovering from drug addiction and depression.The song was the first that featured the horn section and came off with a gospel feel.
Taylor tried to put a charge in what he termed as a “mellow” song list with a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Everyday.” He closed the first set with “Sweet Baby James,” and “You’ve Got a Friend” which featured both his wife Kim and son Henry on backing vocals.
After a 20 minute intermission Taylor returned and signed autographs while the band offered a groove-based soundtrack. Upon completing his rounds, Taylor strapped on the guitar for “Stretch of Highway.”
The second set was more hit-based with songs like “Handy Man,” Fire and Rain,” and “Up on the Roof.” Taylor and guitarist Mike Landau did a formidable job of approximating the blues with “Steamroller Blues,” a song that also came with a disclaimer.
“That song is becoming an increasingly shameful display,” he said, after gyrating and gesticulating rock star-like throughout the song.
Taylor closed with “Mexico” and “Whenever I See Your Smiling Face,” and returned to encore with “How Sweet It Is.”
As the band was preparing to exit the stage, Taylor hurried them back into position for a second encore of “Shower the People,” and a stunning version of the Scottish folk song “Wild Mountain Thyme.”
Sounding almost apologetic about the canceled fireworks display, Taylor stretched the encore a bit further, leading the crowd in an Independence Day-inspired rendition of “America the Beautiful.”