Through a career spanning six decades, James Taylor has put his stamp on the American songbook. That catalog of songs, as well as many outstanding cover tunes, were on display by Taylor and his All-Star Band Saturday, July 30 at the sold-out Oncenter War Memorial Arena in Syracuse.
Taylor delivered far more than fans had a right to expect in a two set show lasting over 2-1/2 hours. His top-notch 11-piece ensemble included Rochester native Steve Gadd and Luis Conte on drums and percussion, Walter Fowler on trumpet, Blue Lou Marini on sax and flute, vocalists Arnold McCuller, Kate Markowitz, and Andrea Zonn, Michael Landau on guitar, Jimmy Johnson on bass, and Larry Goldings on keyboards. Above and beyond all that were the iconic songs and unmistakable voice of JT, Sweet Baby James, the one and only James Taylor.
He was engaging, sharing stories of how certain songs came to be at different points in his career, and often hilarious. He joked about intermission. “I don’t even know why we have one. I usually just stand behind the curtain over there and stare at my watch for twenty minutes.” Surprisingly, he moved to the front of the stage during intermission, signing autographs and posing for photos with fans, and continued doing so while the band returned to the stage and jumped into an instrumental piece. Special praise is deserved by the sound technicians who made that venerable old arena sound better than I’d ever heard. Every voice and every instrument could be identified. If you have the opportunity to see James Taylor in concert, do so. There is nothing quite like seeing a world class musician at their very best.
Set 1: Wandering / Secret O’ Life, Everyday (Buddy Holly), Walking Man, Today Today Today, Country Road, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, Coppermine, Carolina In My Mind, (I’ve Got to) Stop Thinkin’ ‘Bout That, Fire and Rain, Shed a Little Light.
Set 2: Up on the Roof (Carole King), You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King), Promised Land (Chuck Berry), Shower the People, Angels of Fenway, Sweet Baby James, Steamroller Blues, Mexico, Your Smiling Face.
Encore: Knock on Wood (Eddie Floyd), How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You) (Marvin Gaye).
Second Encore: You and I Again