June 24, 2003 performance, reviewed by Dave Conlin Read
(Originally published on NewBerkshire.com)
What a difference a year makes! At 9 PM during last year’s James Taylor Tanglewood performance with the Boston Pops, some of the musicians still hadn’t gotten seated, while by that time Tuesday (June 24, 2003), Taylor and his band were already into the second set of a perfectly delightful concert that thrilled the sold-out audience of 18,000. The 2002 crowd was a traffic-snarling record of 24,470 that may stand for all time as the BSO has agreed to cap ticket sales at 18,000.
Even so, the concert didn’t get underway until some 20 minutes past the 7 o’clock scheduled time and then did so in duo-mode, with drummer Steve Gadd and percussionist Luis Conte jamming for several minutes. Good thing because they had the spotlight in the opening number, “First of May,” which Taylor started off with a couple of sharp nasty whistles, as if he were leading a Mardi Gras parade. By the 3rd song, “Copperline,” Taylor had shifted to his native Appalachian roots, with vocalist/violinist Carmella Ramsey enriching the melancholy with some fine fiddling.
With the concert fully underway and the audience settled in, including the young Taylor twins (across the aisle from us for the first 5 numbers, until bedtime, we suppose), we heard the star in his familiar role as everybody’s neighbor and friend.
To a front-row enthusiast: “Oh yeah, how ya been? Me too, pretty much…” To us all: “Nice to be back. Finally decided to be summertime, even if it only lasts 15 minutes or so. We’ve got some old songs and some new ones. This is the title song from our latest studio album, ‘October Road.'” (Later on he said the it was written “not far from this spot,on the Housatonic River, as it flows by October Mountain.”)
A little later, most of the group took to the wings and Taylor put down his guitar for an outstanding rendition of his “Mean Old Man” (from October Road) done in lounge-mode accompanied by guitar, piano, and drums. “Mean Old Man” is a beautiful, insightful lyric that allowsTaylor to display not only the full range of his vocal powers but also his condition: mindful, grateful, and playful.
During last year’s Pops gig, (when Taylor was accompanied also by the redoubtable guitarist/crooner John Pizzarelli), we got the notion that Taylor may be looking ahead to a new career as a lounge singer, and there were a few times tonight, besides “Mean Old Man,” when it looked that way again.
If that ever comes to pass, they’ll have to be pretty big lounges, because Taylor seems to love making music in the midst of a big group of great musicians. He also enjoys working his introductions of them into the show, one or two at a time, throughout the night.
Other highlights of the concert were a rafters-rattling “Steamroller” as well as the new “Bittersweet” and “Mexico,” and of course, “Fire and Rain” (with regards paid to the nearby Austin Riggs Center) and the grand finale, “Sweet Baby James.”
Ain’t we in the Berkshires blessed to have everybody’s neighbor and friend really be our neighbor, and what a pal he was to get our oh-so-long-awaited summer off to such a tremendous start.
Reviews of James Taylor concerts at Tanglewood and the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield:
- Review of James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Yo Yo Ma, Boston Pops, John Williams Tanglewood Aug. 26-30, 2009
- James Taylor and his Band of Legends – July 4, 2008 – 60th birthday party
- Review of James Taylor’s One Man Band show at Tanglewood – August 24, 2007
- Review of James Taylor’s “One Man Band” at Pittsfield’s Colonial Theatre – July 19, 2007
- James Taylor and Band – Tanglewood – August 21, 2006
- James Taylor and Band – Tanglewood – July 4, 2005
- James Taylor and Band – Tanglewood – June 24, 2003
- James Taylor and the Boston Pops – Tanglewood – July 17, 2002
- James Taylor and special guest Yo Yo Ma – Tanglewood – July 4, 2001