By Jarred Tito
Artist: James Taylor
Date / Venue: Saturday February 4th, 2017 - Vector Arena, Auckland
Simply an excellent concert. James Taylor’s performance demonstrates how he is a masterful singer/ song writer and a consummate entertainer. He makes a casual entrance onto the stage and is greeted by a full house at the Vector Arena. He is the consummate professional and also the consummate gentleman. He takes his first bow in gratitude to the audience to his immediate right then turns to the centre and bows and then to the people on his left. He doesn't say a word but his acknowledgement says a lot. His band makes an equally quiet entrance and prepares to join him for the opening number, 'Wander'.
James Taylor is a tall man who has aged well. He sports a cheese cutter hat which complements his Midwest casual dress style which is of course very James Taylor. He's looking cool and relaxed and immediately sends out a good vibe. The crowd warms to him naturally. As soon as he plays the first chord on his guitar and begins to sing we quickly realise that although he's older, his voice still processes those unmistakable smooth, dulcet tones that can only be James Taylor. He sings the first few verses and chorus as a solo act and it's not until the second part of the song that the band joins in. He has a full complement of both musicians and backing singers who demonstrate the quality of their musicianship as they sync perfectly with each song played.
James then addresses the audience for the first time and quickly mentions that he would like to apologize for the President which receives a rousing applause from the audience and a couple of suggestions that he should maybe think about moving to New Zealand and making it a permanent residence - well, at least for the next four years. I would imagine that James Taylor would make a perfect dinner guest or coffee companion as his conversation is easy and interesting. He has a quick wit and his timing is perfect. His second song is a Buddy Holly classic, 'Love Like This, Surely Come My Way'. An excellent version.
'Walking Man', is his third and then a new song called, 'Today Today Today', (a slow blue grass tune) which he tells us was about the time he first met Paul McCartney and George Harrison in 1968 when he was auditioning for a position in one of their tours. A nerve wracking time for Taylor but also a major break which helped him become a namesake in his own right. He's a great storyteller who puts the audience at ease. I was very impressed with the way he took his time to introduce the band members and made sure to thank them personally on stage throughout the performance. 'Walking Down Country Road' was one of my favourite songs of the evening which also featured an excellent drum solo by Tim Wackerman who really burnt it up.
The first set included a lot of classics like, 'Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight', 'Down On Copper Line' and 'Going To Carolina' which included an interesting story of how George Harrison and Paul McCartney were the original guitarist and drummer for that song. At this stage a lady fan gave James a small gift. By the description, it sounded like a skin cream or cologne; thankfully it wasn't her underwear.
The second set included some Carole King songs like, 'Up On The Roof' and 'You've Got a Friend' which were both crowd pleasers.
There was a new song 'Montana' followed by an all-time James Taylor classic, 'Fire And Rain' and then a blues song. I believe it was 'Steamroller Blues' for which James played a flat back electric guitar. This was also the perfect opportunity for the band to unleash some of their musical talents which included a solo from the keyboardist, guitarist and saxophonist. Louise Conte was allowed to break out on percussion during the song 'Mexico', which was one of my favourites of the night.
The whole concert was a thoroughly enjoyable time and of course it included a great encore which featured songs like 'Knock On Wood' and also a new song which James closed with. However, the song that I'm sure everyone was waiting for, which was his second to last song, was 'How Sweet It Is', which brought the house down. In fact, I'm quite sure that that was going to be the grand finale but the crowd was so ecstatic and into the whole thing that James Taylor actually rallied up the band as they were leaving and got them to do a final song, a song that will be on his new album.
James Taylor plays the Church Road Winery in Napier tonight (Sunday February 5th), ticketing info via Ticketmaster.