Monday, July 27, 2009


JT on his Guitar
Signing Autographs in the interval
JT and the Band

When I told my Spanish friends I was going to see James Taylor perform live in the city they seemed unimpressed. But I wasn't fooled, I know this deadpan expression well; they didn't know who the hell I was talking about. I was a bit worried however. If they didn't know who JT was, did this mean I would be sitting with 3,000 Brits and the odd tourist? This lack of knowledge about one of the most influential musicians of the 20/21st century (JT has collaborated and performed with Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, who used to be one of his backing singers, Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, Neil Young, Carole King - who is also back on tour - et al), is staggering. He's been around forever and, despite the ups and downs of earlier years, this current European 'Down Home' Tour could be straight from the 60's. When he walked quietly onto the stage to thunderous applause (mostly Spanish, I was relieved to see), he seemed vaguely surprised to see us. His band, Steve Gadd, Larry Goldings, Jimmy Johnson, Michael Landau, Kate Markowitz and Arnold McCuller were all dressed in the 60's uniform of jeans and T-shirt. All except the remarkable Andrea Zonn, the sweet-voiced fiddle player, who wore a shapeless black dress and sandals. They looked as though they'd come to play at a small town benefit.

As Taylor began to sing, his voice was a bit shaky. He's been on the road since April; was he already fatigued? But it didn't last and he gave us what we wanted: 'Sweet baby James', 'Fire and Rain', 'You Got a Friend'; the familiar numbers came streaming over the warm, appreciative Valencian audience.

Live, he's amazing. His band unfailingly excellent, the vocal harmonies lump-in-the throat wonderful. He was relaxed and amusing, joking with audience when they yelled for him to sing their favourite songs, picking up the list from his feet and telling them where it was on the schedule - and when a heavily-accented Spaniard yelled 'I love you James', he paused and volleyed with 'Gracias,Señor'. Even during the 20 minute interlude he stayed put signing autographs and T-shirts, smiling that gentle JT smile.

The highlight of the evening was his rendition of 'Steamroller Blues'. First written in 1970, where it appeared on the album 'Sweet Baby James', this current arrangement was astounding, bringing the entire audience to its feet. Now he allowed us to hear just how extraordinary his vocal range is and, of course, we knew all the words. In fact, the first time Elvis heard 'Steamroller Blues' he put it straight into his repertoire and sang it time after time until his death in 1977.

We came running to see him again .... but was it just a little too understated ... a little too 'warm and folksy'? I, for one, would have liked a few more new songs but I suspect I'd have been outnumbered. The audience wanted familiarity and this he gave – in spades. A truly memorable experience.
Barbara O'Neill

1 comment:

jose said...

I thought I was one of the few JT fans in Spain but when I saw all those people in his concert in San Sebastian, I realized I'm not the only one. He must come to Spain more often. He tours very often in USA and even in other parts of Europe but he doesn't come to Spain very often. This is his second time in Spain. The first in 1992. Then he came in 1998 but he didn't give any concerts. He just appeared in a pair of Tv shows.