February 16, 2017 | « back

THEAGE.COM — James Taylor review: How sweet to see a true gentleman on song

By Lucy Cormack

James Taylor
International Convention Centre, February 2

Is there a greater gentleman than James Taylor? If you find him, let me know – but I won’t hold my breath.

With hat in hand, and a bow so low his brow almost kissed the stage floor, the 68-year-old troubadour oozed warmth as he greeted a packed International Convention Centre on Tuesday.

Promising mostly the old stuff and just a little of the new (which he swore would “sound like the old stuff anyway”), the veteran performer delivered the best of his ballads, bookmarked by the storytelling and wit for which he is so loved.

It’s hard to say what showed off his goodwill most: was it his promise to get through the songs from his new album Before This World “nice and quick” to make way for the favourites? Or his determination that he couldn’t take credit for his own songs. “I don’t write them, I’m just the first person to hear them.”

Then again, perhaps it was the 20-minute interval that he spent on his knees at the front of the stage signing autographs and posing for selfies.

Opening with a mellow Secret O’ Life, it was clear Taylor was ready to settle into a laid-back but intimate performance.

His signature earthy voice soared across old favourites such as Fire and Rain, Country Road and Shower the People, supported by the skilled musicianship of his All-Star (10-man) Band, replete with brass, bass, percussion and backing vocals.

Impressive solos from the band were best heard in the blues parody Steamroller, which showcased everything from the sounds of former Blues Brother “Blue” Lou Marini on saxophone, to the lightning fingers of Michael Landau on guitar.

But while the band could dish out the sparks and sound, they also knew when to back off, a fitting transition for the Carole King favourite You’ve Got a Friend.

When he first heard King play the song about 40 years ago, Taylor said he loved it instantly, but he had no idea he would be singing it “every performance, forever”.

Looking around at this moment, it was no doubt a poignant one for Taylor’s 7000 adoring fans, who had either loved the song in their youth, or perhaps (like me) had cherished it as a tyke among the family records.