July 4, 2008 Tanglewood concert review by Dave Read
A perfectly good rock and roll show, billed as “James Taylor and his Band of Legends” got turned into an event that will go down in Berkshires‘ lore as the night of several stars; live, on video, and animated. It’ll get tagged something like “James Taylor’s 60th Birthday show,” with a variety of sub-titles depending on where else fans loiter on the entertainment scene: Yo Yo Ma, John Travolta, Paul McCartney, Carole King, Homer Simpson.
A third of the way into the second set, by which time Taylor and the Legends already had earned their keep with a nicely paced ninety-plus minutes of often dazzling music, Taylor told the audience “… from here on out, things are going to open up.” And so they did, with his pal John Travolta coming onstage during the Dixie Chicks‘ “Some Days You Gotta Dance” to MC the birthday party segment of the show. (When a rock ‘n roller hits 60, way more than the actual date, March 12, is appropriate for the celebration.)
James Taylor’s 60th birthday celebration at Tanglewood
Can this cat really have reached the threshold for being referred to with a Latin preface, a la “sexagenarian James Taylor rocks throng?”
After a big hug and a kiss, Travolta introduced cellist Yo Yo Ma, who accompanied his neighbor and friend on a poignant rendition of “Sweet Baby James.” Sublime. To the ridiculous? Next was an hilarious video greeting from Homer Simpson that closed with Simpson saying, “…from one person who has cleaned up his act, to another” and introducing the next song, “Steamroller Blues.”
In that little segment, from a duet with Yo Yo Ma, to the totally nutty Homer Simpson clip (including JT’s appearance on the Simpsons in the mid-nineties), to a crazy mad blistering rendition of Taylor’s “Steamroller,” you get an inkling of Taylor’s breadth as a musician and his evolvement as a person – who else has a peer group with that span?
Next was a friend from forty years ago, Paul McCartney, via video, who recalled their meeting when Taylor was the first musician signed by the Beatles’ Apple Records in 1968, and adding that he “has no sympathy for someone turning 60, which is beginning to sound young to me.”
But the icing on this 6-decker cake of a show was the presence of Carole King, who gets refrenced anyway at every James Taylor concert.
The two old friends, who did a series of gigs late last year in celebration of the Troubador in LA, sang “Natural Woman,” “Up on the Roof,” and “You’ve Got a Friend.”
With the typically generous encore, the show went on until a little past ten, ending with the world’s most heartfelt rendition of “How Sweet It Is,” and fireworks over Stockbridge Bowl.
We’re confident nobody has taken up Taylor on his offer to “fight anyone” who disputes his claim that his Band of Legends is the “best band in the world.” They are, and you can find more about them by following these links:.James Taylor’s Band of Legends