September 8, 2014 | « back

PLYMOUTHHERALD.CO.UK: James Taylor live at Plymouth Pavilions


IF THERE were any doubt at all that we were truly in the presence of musical greatness at Plymouth Pavilions last night, we only had to look at the drum kit, occupied by the great Steve Gadd, to know for sure.

One of the most highly regarded drummers, who’s CV reads like a who’s who of the industry, he’s the man whose innovative rhythms inspired Paul Simon to pen 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.

He was just one of an all star band that included jazz band Larry Goldings on keys, Jimmy Johnson on bass, guitarist Michael Landau and Nashville fiddle player Andrea Zonn, with the greatest of them all, of course, James Taylor out front.

Together they delivered over two hours of world class, country/folk/blues, sublimely understated with a few exceptions, notably Steamroller Blues. The pure blues belter was the only song of the night that required Taylor to strap on an electric guitar and saw him and Landau sparring, duetting and larking around the stage in what he jokingly referred to later as a ‘shameful display’, while later How Sweet It Is had fans swaying, singing and dancing in the aisles.

James appeared, strikingly, long and lean as ever, yet with decidedly less hair, but it was particularly gratifying to find that that distinctive, effortless voice had changed not one iota. Together with those same unmistakable acoustic accompaniments it transported us back over thirty plus years.

Something in the Way She Moves opened the show to wild applause from the delighted sell out crowd, after which we were treated to the background story of the song in one of many intimate inter-song anecdotes. The first he had the confidence to perform in public, it was also the first he played to Beatles Paul and George who promptly signed him to Apple.

Later we were told that despite being surrounded by such illustrious company in ’68, he yearned for home and the result was Carolina which we then heard, lush and harmony-rich.

Sweet Baby James, we discovered, was a paean to his baby nephew, the idea for which he had while driving back to Carolina to see him for the first time, on returning from the UK.

James played so many of those fabulous, familiar tunes; Country Roads, Fire and Rain,

Whenever I See Your Smiling Face, Shower The People, yet remarkably, only one, You’ve Got A Friend, penned by Carole King, actually dented the top 40 in the UK.

That, naturally, was reserved for a moving sing-along finale after which he happily shook hands, signed autographs and chatted from the stage.

From his beaming face throughout it was clear to see he was enjoying himself as, of course, was everyone present, and he closed the show promising that it won’t be another fifteen or so years before he returns to Plymouth once more.