July 4, 2001 performance reviewed by Dave Conlin Read
James Taylor’s Fourth of July concert at Tanglewood was one of those events that remind us why the Berkshires is such a great place to live.
From the moment he loped – almost boogied – onstage, until the final note of the fourth encore dissolved, it was clear that JT was really charged up.
“It’s great to be home for Independence Day – there’s no place like Tanglewood. This is great.” In fact, Tanglewood is home for the current tour, which was rehearsed during May at Ozawa Hall.
That alone would be enough to make this gig stand out from the rest, but there was an additional dash of Berkshire spice; as Taylor himself put it, “our own” Yo Yo Ma.
The stellar cellist sat in on Another Day in the second set and then returned to accompany Taylor to close the show with a memorable rendition of Sweet Baby James. Now that’s a treat, pure and simple. (Cellist Owen Young played the previous night and earlier on this tour)
As delighted as the audience was, Mr. Ma looked even more so; seated on Taylor’s left, he peered up at him, with an ear-to-ear grin, slowly shaking his head as if to say, “I can’t believe how lucky I am.”
There was a visual aspect to the show that was a delightful complement to the aural fix: rough-hewn logs and latticework made it look like the band were playing in a great big mountain lodge, and there was a stunning assortment of images projected on a huge screen behind the set.
This concert was crafted deftly; covering Taylor’s 3 decade career and introducing a trio of songs from his upcoming album, the splendid ensemble of eleven musicians moved through a variety of styles, including bossa nova, rhythm ‘n blues and mariachi.
The timbre of Taylor’s voice has never been so clear and sonorous. He un-slung his guitar for a couple numbers, including Sun on the Moon, wherein he got into some funky aerobics while trading lyric licks with his quartet of vocalists.
It was a wonderful event, a pop/folk/rock ‘n roll gig served up in some kind of special sauce; the ingredients may be familiar, but the flavor of this show was unforgettable.
The band: Clifford Carter (keyboards), Jimmy Johnson (bass), Russ Kunkel (percussion), Luis Conte (percussion), Bob Mann (guitar), Walt Fowler (trumpet, flugel horn), and Lou Marini (saxophone, flute). Singers: Arnold McCuller, David Lasley, Valerie Carter, and Kate Markowitz.