OMAHA.COM — Review: Two of the best living singer-songwriters landed in Nebraska last night
By Kevin Coffey
LINCOLN — It’s hard to say something about James Taylor that hasn’t been said.
Legendary songwriter? Yep.
Songs you know by heart? Uh-huh.
Killer band? You know it.
Guitar and vocal skills as steady as in 1968? Oh yes.
Even if it’s all been said, written, sang or proclaimed before, don’t let that diminish the man’s incomparable talent.
For a crowd of more than 7,000 on Wednesday at Pinnacle Bank Arena, Taylor played a serene and stellar concert, peppering a nearly two-hour set with the songs where you know every word (“Fire and Rain,” “Something in the Way She Moves” and “Sweet Baby James” among them), a few that maybe you don’t (“First Day of May” and “Country Road”) and plenty of stories about how he wrote them all.
Taylor joked about losing his hair, told the story of writing “Sweet Baby James” for a godnephew and being a huge fan of The Beatles when he auditioned for Apple Records.
“I played this song for George Harrison and Paul McCartney,” he said. “I don’t know how I got through it, and I can’t remember any of it. It was like a car wreck. Kinda like the rest of the decade. I was told I had fun.”
All the while, the audience sat and listened respectfully. It was so quiet, you could hear fans talking softly from several rows away.
It was, as every Taylor concert I’ve ever seen, wonderful.
It helps to have an amazing crop of songs, a never-aging voice and a lineup of killer musicians that have appeared on famous recordings for decades.
(Seriously. His lineup is killer.)
It was made all the better by having Bonnie Raitt be a part of the show.
Raitt and Taylor have been on tour together for some time, mostly because they enjoy each other’s company.
When introducing her opening set, Taylor called Raitt “my favorite performer.” Then, when he joined her onstage, he said, “I told ya.”
“I’ve loved James since I first heard him,” she said.
Raitt played a masterful mix of covers and classics, weaving songs by the Talking Heads and Skip James together with her own “Something to Talk About.”
And if you’re not moved by her powerful take on John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” you may want to check your pulse and make sure you’re still alive.
It was quite the double bill, and it was made even more fun when they joined together to play John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love” and later for Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”
It doesn’t get much better than two legendary artists playing as well as they ever have — even at ages 69 and 70 — and playing even better together.