James Taylor seizes the moment at Jones Beach, NY 7-16-14

James Taylor seizes the moment at Jones Beach, NY 7-16-14

The summer of 2014 has been loaded with some of music’s storied artists touring across North America.  Part of the endless list of concerts sprinkled throughout the calendar of July and August is Rock & Roll Hall of Famer James Taylor.  Regarded as one of the best songwriters in modern times, Taylor has won five Grammy’s and touched the heart of millions of listeners with his soft singing and folk rock guitar style.  On Wednesday July 16th, Taylor and his All-star band including guitarist Michael Landau, bassist Jimmy Johnson, drummer Steve Gadd, and horn player Lou Marini arrived at packed Nikon at Jones Beach Theater for an intimate evening of music.

With no supporting act on the bill, Taylor and his band took the stage while daylight was still present on this perfect mid-summer’s eve.  Approaching the center stage with his acoustic guitar draped over him, he opened with “Something in the Way She Moves”.  Anxious to show their excitement, fans applauded immediately upon the song’s conclusion and one fan even approached the stage to present Taylor with a handwritten note and flowers.  The singer humbly took the gift and then confessed the opening was the first song he ever felt comfortable playing in front of people.  Mixing things up Taylor offered a good balance of classic catalog pieces alongside newer songs such as “Today, Today, Today”.  The track possesses a country twang and sing along feel that sounded delightful while giving fans some new original material for the first time since  2002’s Open Road.

Articulating his classic smooth vocal delivery, Taylor showed he still has the sound that listeners have drawn to for over four decades now.  Offering up rarely heard tracks like “Lo and Behold” along with “Millworker”, originally from Stephen Schwartz Broadway musical Working, the night was enchanted and full of surprises.  Showing his inviting personality to the audience, Taylor elaborated on back stories about each track, making the amphitheater shrink down to the feel of a quaint coffee shop vibe.  Keeping the positive feelings flowing, fan-favorites such as “Carolina in My Mind”, “Sweet Baby James”, and “You’ve Got A Friend” concluded the opening set on a high note, leaving the audience wondering what would come next.

After a brief intermission Taylor brought things back to present day performing more recent compositions like “Stretch of the Highway” and “You and I”.  While some in the audience may have not been all too familiar with these fresh new songs, it was a gift to hear Taylor perform newer tracks and show his songwriting skills have failed to dissipate over time.  He had a good feel for what the audience wanted and moved through the second act easily with more classics like “Handy Man” and the massive hit “Fire and Rain”.  Provoking smiles among the theater, fans as young as ten years old could be seen enjoying the performance as well.  Continuing to keep the show personal and affectionate, Taylor came across as a sincere man who loves to bring enjoyment to his audience through music.  Closing out the set, he played a great string of songs including the upbeat summer Drifter’s cover “Up on the Roof”, “Mexico”, and “You’re Smiling Face”.

Exiting the stage for a moment, only to be overtaken by roaring cheers; Taylor came back out for a spectacular encore beginning with “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)”.  Having everyone on their feet, no one sat down for the remainder of the show as the band played “Shower The People” and concluded with tranquil “Wild Mountain Thyme”.  Diverse and stimulating, the song selection of Taylor and his band could not have been better.  There was something for everyone here and justifies why Taylor’s poetic songwriting career transcends generations.  The blanketed feeling of relaxation and reprieve from the hustle and bustle of everyday life was certainly checked at the gate and left there thanks to Taylor’s amazing performance.

Photo credit: Charles Eames Photography

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Frank Malerba
frank@crypticrock.com
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