James Taylor – Spark Arena: April 30, 2024 (Concert Review)

James Taylor and his All Star Band helped bring April to an end in style with a tour-closing, hit-filled, crowd-pleasing show that brought smiles both to Taylor and his fans.

At age 76, James Taylor is in better shape than he has any right to be. His addictions and mental health issues are public knowledge but the man sounds and looks closer to 56 than 76.

As he told us, when introducing That’s Why I’m Here, it took the death of his friend John Belushi in 1982 to act as a wakeup call and motivate him to recover from his addictions.

James TaylorTonight, JT’s main vice seems to be bad jokes, mostly about aging.

He overshared about have trouble “moving my stool” and his dentures, ”later I might take out my teeth”.

Fortunately Taylor’s songs have aged as well as he has. Songs like Country Road, Sweet Baby James and Carolina In My Mind take on a new meaning as they, Taylor and we get older.

With no opening act, James and his band performed two sets, the first starting precisely at 8pm.

“So glad you guys made it…it’s not the same without you”, Taylor deadpans. As he begins with one of his earliest songs, Something In The Way She Moves, from his 1968 debut album on The Beatles’ Apple Records.

His story of how he had to audition in front of Paul McCartney and George Harrison was priceless…becoming the first artist to be signed to Apple and “inspiring” George to write Something, noting George liked his song so much “he went home and wrote it himself”.

For music geeks like myself, it was cool to see and hear session cats like drummer Steve Gadd and guitarist Dean Parks playing live. That’s Gadd on Paul Simon’s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover and Parks is all over most of the Steely Dan catalogue.

James Taylor

There was plenty of folksy banter with the audience in-between songs along with more Dad jokes.

The first set, clocking in at 55 minutes closed with a rhythmic Sun On The Moon, from 1988’s Never Die Young Album.

James TaylorThen twenty minutes later we were are back for another hour of (mostly) hits beginning with Carolina On My Mind…another early composition…featuring ace backing vocalists Andrea Zonn, Kate Markowitz and Dorian Holley.

Taylor’s “blues parody” Steamroller, recorded by Elvis as Steamroller Blues, took the show to the next level and it was followed by Fire And Rain, Up On The Roof, Shower The People, You’ve Got A Friend and How Sweet It Is…a run of classic songs if there ever was one.

The encore featured Your Smiling Face and finally, JT’s “secular hymn” You Can Close Your Eyes, with all present on stage and in the audience singing along.

Sure, I would have liked to hear Long Ago And Far Away and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight instead of a couple of the later tunes, but that would be nit-picking.

As these classic artists (and we) continue to age, shows like this become more and more cherished because it won’t be too long until we only will be able to hear these beautiful songs sung live by tribute acts.

Last night it was the real thing.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk:

Set 1:

  1. Something In The Way She Moves
  2. Handy Man
  3. That’s Why I’m Here
  4. Yellow And Rose
  5. Anywhere Like Heaven
  6. Never Die Young
  7. Country Road
  8. Sweet Baby James
  9. Copperline
  10. Sun On The Moon

Set 2:

  1. Carolina On My Mind
  2. Mexico
  3. Steamroller
  4. Fire And Rain
  5. Up On The Roof
  6. Shower The People
  7. You’ve Got A Friend
  8. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
  9. Shed A Little Light
  10. Your Smiling Face
  11. You Can Close Your Eyes