James Taylor for life
Musician and writer, Ceilidh likes to provoke your thoughts, make…
“With a holy host of others standing ‘round me, still I’m on the dark side of the moon,” sang James Taylor last night at the Bell Centre. Those lyrics suddenly had meaning for audience members, because before performing his indelible song, Carolina in my Mind, Taylor told us that in ’68, after false musical starts in America, he’d gone over to London to try his luck, and wound up being the first artist signed to the Beatles’ record label, Apple.
That “holy host” referred to in Carolina in my Mind, is the Beatles themselves, hovering, inspiring, and unable to tear James Taylor from the longing he had to be back home. When relaying these tales to us, his voice was as surprised as we were to hear this rare archive, in a tone of “I still can’t believe that happened to me.” Taylor is as grandiose as he is humble, magnanimous as he is meek.
He may have had a career that began in the 60’s, but unlike many of his musical peers, James Taylor is not on the tour circuit to peddle past pop songs. Releasing his latest album, Before This World, just last year, he is far from an outdated sixties crooner coming to Montreal to revive old glories. Though his performance was peppered with many of his classics, he was bringing his entire career with him, a career still unfolding, songs that are still being written and reworked.
Touring with what was accurately billed as his “all-star band,” James took time out of performing his two sets to introduce all of his players by name (violin, horn section, backup singers and two percussionists, along with sizzling lead guitar, and cool bass), going over and shaking their hands in gratitude and appreciation.
Respecting his Quebecois audience enough to address them endearingly in French, Taylor went back and forth from sitting on a bar stool with his intimate acoustic, strumming old ballads, to plugging in his electric and ripping through a hilariously exaggerated version of his crunchy, bluesy, face-melting Steamroller. Taylor also shared a story about Babe Ruth being traded from the Boston Red Sox and cursing the town, before breaking into a troubadour-style song about the game itself.
Rocking out to Buddy Holly’s Roller coaster, giving us a Pink Floyd cover when the audience was screaming for an encore, chatting and cracking jokes on the stage, he had the audience dancing, crying, swaying, roaring, and falling more in love with him than we thought possible.
The Bell Centre knows how to put on a performance, and the light show was comparable to American holiday fireworks. Taylor had the magical ability of shrinking that vast stadium into the size of his own backyard, and there we were under the stars, letting him sing us his lullabies and tell us his most loved stories.
A night with James Taylor was something you don’t forget so soon.
Musician and writer, Ceilidh likes to provoke your thoughts, make music, and challenge anyone who takes life too seriously. Her favorite quote from Lester Bangs says it best: “The real question is what to live for. And I can’t answer it. Except another one of your records. And another chance for me to write.”
I have always been a James Taylor fan. One year I had the privilege of seeing him in person at an AARP convention. Another well know performer was first and would not allow pictures and was very restrictive with the audience. When James Taylor took the stage with stool and guitar, he simply said sing along, take picture and have fun. Always my favorite and well deserved.
I would love to know what his song, Baby Buffalo, is about. I have always wondered that?!
It is about his son Ben whose mother is Carly Simon.
I was fortunate to be able to see JT in Sept. 2001 in Portland, Oregon. It was the first show of his tour and due to the twin towers’ abomination, talk of cancellation was rampant. But true to his amazing fortitude and beliefs, JT came out and wowed not only the audience, but the entire world. “Fire and Rain” has since always made me cry. We Will Never Forget! He sings from the soul.
This is just one of many fond associations with James Taylor – who has written the soundtrack of my life! Here is my favorite : I spent several summers on the Vineyard in the late 70’s and on rare occasions, I was THRILLED to catch a glimpse of James Taylor around Lamberts Cove. I never wanted to invade his privacy, so I never tried to say anything, but I would have told him how much his music meant to me; the love, the sorrow, and the faith in the people he loved – all of that came through his music – and it equipped me to adjust as I grew up. I think of that time, walking along Lambert’s Cove beach every time I hear “Terra Nova”. Thank you for a lifetime of beautiful music –
“Won’t you look down on me Jesus, won’t you help me make a stand, won’t you get me through another day”. These lyrics were my only prayer, when I got converted back in the summer of 1973.
I met James Taylor in 1969 in Hartford, Ct. He sang for me and we talked for quite a while. A couple of months later I saw him in concert at U. Mass. Amherst. I happened to be walking out of the building at the same time as he. I looked up and he was pointing at me and said “hey, chick I know you. I’ve seen James once or twice since then. This summer my husband and I will be seeing him in New Hampshire on August 1st. I wonder if he’ll remember me then!