JT concerts May-June 2018 – Phoenix, Los Angeles, Portland & Seattle

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    JT concerts May – June 2018 Phoenix, Los Angeles, Portland & Seattle

    Where does the time go – suddenly James Taylor is 70 and I’m 70. Wait, wait something is wrong here, when, how did I get here! I don’t feel 70, just the other night I was at the foot of the stage at a James Taylor concert, feeling all of 16 years, swaying and pretending to sing along with his audience favourite and staple cover of Holland and Dozier’s “How Sweet It Is to Be Loved By YOU”. James Taylor and his Band of Legends – Jimmy Johnson, Mike Landau, Steve Gadd, Luis Conte, Lou Marini, Walt Fowler, Kevin Hayes, and singers Arnold McCuller, Kate Markowitz & Andrea Zonn always do this lovely restrained but swinging together in a tight groove – and a tad more rousing than the original version on the Gorilla Album. James is often heard, in these live versions, to insert in the lyrics while singing: “It’s all right to get on up and come on down…” ! For those who pay attention to his singing of lyrics and who are close to the front, this is an exciting treat to get on down there and sing along with James and the Band.
    I had only intended on going to two James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt concerts this year but failed miserably to restrain my JT concert “Jonesing”. The healthy part about JT concert addiction is it IS a healing experience besides all the other amazing delightful pluses. The only thing it hurts is the pocketbook – but from my point of view, worth every dime saved from not joining any private social or athletic clubs, jogging and hiking, yoga, tai chi free exercising, instead of golfing or playing tennis clubs, saving large jars of loose change and many other giving up of little nonsense expenses that can all add up to a tidy sum. So, it was a sad and a disappointment to hear of Bonnie Raiit’s momentary travails that prevented her from doing the first leg of the tour but it’s always fantastic anyway, to see and hear – An Evening with James Taylor and His Band of Legends. My husband and I had bought tickets for the Portland and Seattle Show. However when I heard that Sheryl Crow was going to perform in Phoenix I jumped on that. Fortunately for me, my Sisters who live in Arizona had a spare ticket. I was headed that way anyway to go visit my ailing mother in Phoenix and timed it so I could catch the show there and then go on to Los Angeles, where I live part of the year these days. It so happened that there were dear friends from very early JTO days, visiting in Los Angeles from Germany, so it wasn’t difficult an excuse to find a ticket to join them at the Hollywood Bowl. It’s always a special thing to meet up and attend JT concerts with like minded, kindred in spirit people, who share the same depth of respect and love for James Taylor music and I must say that over the last, almost, 20 years of Joel’s site here, I have found and befriended many such wonderful people. Again, Joel Risberg and helpers, thank you for building and keeping up this site.
    Billboard.com has a thorough and beautiful write up by Gail Mitchell of the Hollywood Bowl shows with James Taylor and Sheryl Crow. It’s worth a read.
    I couldn’t possibly come close to such great review writing but I can share some small fan impressions.
    In Phoenix – Sheryl Crow and her Band opened with great rocking energy and there were many fans in the audience that loved her. For me her hits triggered streaming memories and her catchy lyrics came easily back to mind. Even those older JT fans who didn’t buy Sheryl Crow albums found themselves eventually getting into the groove with her and her band. They are good – and if I thought I enjoyed their show in Phoenix I was even more jumped up at their even more powerful performance at the first show at the Hollywood Bowl. They ROCKED the Bowl. Sheryl was also very mindful and paid great tribute to the absent Bonnie Raitt. I can’t be sure but I think they played for the first 45mins to an hour before James came on and sang with her on her last song performance, “Everyday is a Winding Road”. Her band left and the stage techs hurried about changing the set. Sheryl came back for the encores with James and his Band – they did Mocking Bird and You Can Close Your Eyes. Both sweetly done and I and the audience loved it, even though I have to say my most favourite Mocking Bird rendition was the one he did with Carly Simon and my favourite You Can Close Your Eyes is the one he did with Joni Mitchell. James’ set after Sheryl’s lasted a good 90 minutes without a break. No opportunity for signing autographs and doing selfies with the fans up front.
    The Stage Set for James Taylor this tour is a huge delight, charming and even hilarious in parts – in the backdrop runs slide shows and videos in gorgeous colors – a collection of collages, pictures of beautiful wilderness landscapes from their road journeys and home, pictures and videos of family from his young days to present day, and all the collages and videos matched each song. Handyman backdrop scenes were hilarious and for Sunny Skies too. It’s a must see and I couldn’t possibly describe it properly. The opening scenes are beautiful as many of his musician friends paid tribute to him including President Obama doing the final introduction repeating sweet funny quote from James Taylor himself – something to the effect that he, James Taylor, was as nervous as a Chiwawa jumped up on amphetamines.
    Sheryl Crow did only three of the shows this first leg of the tour. Other shows this tour It was James and the Band. Bonnie Raitt will be back for the second leg of tour.

    The Portland and Seattle shows were very different from Phoenix and Los Angeles shows. It was only James and the Band performing two sets. I particularly LOVED the Portland show. They’d had a days rest and when they came on they were alive and energetic in their performance. They are a tight band making zero mistakes and if they did it certainly was not discernible. If James made any mistakes and often it’s only caught by die hard fans who know his songs and lyrics really well, he is always quick to bounce back without a noticeable change of beat or easily replaces lost lyrics and most of the audience wouldn’t even catch it. At the Portland and the Seattle shows James, instead of taking a break backstage, he instead, sat at one corner of the stage and spent the whole break signing autographs and having his picture taken with his fans. It never fails when he does that to have the audience noticeably make shocked but awed responses. It’s a very moving thing to watch the thrilled and gratefully tear spilling faces of his fans when he does this. It doesn’t happen all the time that he does this connection thing with his fans during his break but when it does hope you’re one of the lucky ones at the next show you attend. I want to add here that autograph seekers with multiple Albums, CD’s and guitars that hound James Taylor for signature be aware that he does not appreciate you pushing your way in among his fans if you are doing it to resell on eBay or the internet. Go Away!
    After the break at the Portland show James came back to his Mic, with insistent urging of Kate and the back up singers pulling him back by his belt buckle, and he, seemingly reluctant to be torn away from his fans – sweet!
    The first song of the second set was Sunni Skies – great to hear that live – and in the backdrop was a video of Ting center stage, doing his cute doggie thing. Someone in the audience hollered out “MONA” James paused and said ‘because you always ask me for Mona when I come to Portland…” and he plucked a few strings on his guitar to get the tune and went right into the song MONA! Oh, my, what a thrill it was for us and he remembered the words and the chords and sang not one or two verses but many verses – beautifully and alone with his guitar – as the band sat still and listened. His voice and guitar rang clear and strong and gorgeously through the still quiet of the Rose Garden Arena. I was so stunned and mesmerized I forgot to get a video of it – darn! Apparently, someone during the break told him that she really wanted to hear Mona and always asks for it when he comes to Portland! Well, she got her special request delivered beautifully and she will thrill over it for the rest of her life. I still get goose bumps from the memory of it.
    Another thing he did spontaneously that got the crowd going – right after he sang Jump Up Behind Me. He took a sip of water and released some, maybe pent up energy, by saying “Whoo!” aloud into the mic and I think he even surprised himself – but he, in that great signature JT style, immediately played on it by releasing another “Whoo” saying isn’t that a good thing to say. So he said “whoo” again and invited the audience to release their own “whoo” – oh my, the Portland audience in the midst of uproarious laughter, gleefully raised the arena roof with their
    release of “whooooooo, whoooooo, whooooo, whoooo…” I thought they weren’t ever going to stop!! James tried this again in Seattle and tho the response was hilarious and good it was not as resounding as a response as the Portlanders. Also after singing Walking Man James spoke on Bonnie Raitt’s condition, telling us she was recovering very well and was going to join the show for the second leg of the tour on the East Coast USA, UK, Ireland and Italy. He also asked us to all stand as he had the arena lights turn on and asked us to send a message to Bonnie Raitt by saying on cue “We love you Bonnie” and asked Jimmy to use his iPhone to video us so they could send it to her. We shouted our hearts out to Bonnie. So sweet!
    James was in great form and voice for all the shows and the Band was amazing as usual but we all know that – what else to expect from these seasoned musicians – James and all, they are the greats. I truly marvel at the performance stamina of James and the whole band – making it appear so effortless and so present in the moment – which I’m sure this adds that very special quality in a James Taylor Concert. Every concert no matter how many I’ve seen – he is very much present and with the audience one hundred percent making each of us feel really special in the particular performance – and we should be – as he and the band come out and perform their hearts out uniquely for each performing evening.
    I was amazed to see many, many fervent young James Taylor fans. Lots of them, almost as many as us old fogeys, joining them at encores in one mind, heart and love for James Taylor and his Band of Legends – you know – made me forget I was now an elderly 70. May they continue on long into the future. Thank you, James and Band for the very special James Taylor Music and live performances.



    Thanks Tee



    Now, I feel as though I’ve already attended a JT concert this year! (PS-Tee, 70 is just a number.)

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