James Taylor and His Legendary Band

C. Michael Bailey By

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James Taylor and His Legendary Band
Verizon Arena Theater
North Little Rock, Arkansas
April 29, 2001

Sentiment and nostalgia are potent motivators for the Baby Boom generation. This explains why musical acts like the Rolling Stones and Eagles remain not only viable, but certain moneymakers—bands which came of age with the post-World War II- generation, a large and varied group of Americans born between 1946 and 1964. These bands developed extensive and popular songbooks during their lengthy and successful careers, providing them ample material to draw from for their late-career concert tours, dragging along their legions of dedicated fans.

This certainly applies to James Taylor, whose forty-plus years of music-making establish him as one of, if not the, preeminent American songwriters. His 2011 tour swung South to Little Rock's Verizon Arena Theater, where the singer/songwriter performed to a sold- out, appreciative crowd.

Taylor's New England/Piedmont roots and folk sensibility have combined in him to produce a proper heir to 19th Century songwriter Stephen Foster. Taylor is first and foremost a storyteller, lyrically and otherwise. His concerts have always been peppered with stories about songs, his family, where he has lived, anything. His storytelling thoroughly informs his song writing, which is quintessentially American. It was present at the beginning of his career and Taylor brought his storytelling full-circle when he took the Verizon Arena Theater stage in Little Rock, Friday, April 29. Friendly, humble and unassuming, Taylor mounted the stage with his "Legendary Band," opening with his excellent cover of Buddy Holly's "Everyday."

Cover tunes are something Taylor has always chosen wisely and played. In the 1970s, when he was beginning his association with The Beatles' Apple Records, Taylor would open his shows with "With a Little Help From My Friends," which is fair, seeing that George Harrison assimilated Taylor's early "Something in the Way She Moves" (the show's second song) into his own "Something" from Abbey Road
While "the Legendary Band" may be a bit overstated, his band was very good, employing four accomplished background singers who complemented Taylor's friendly New England tenor well.

Arnold McCullers was allowed the spotlight several times with his background vocals and aural filigree. Taylor's rhythm section of bassist Jimmy Johnson, guitarist Michael Landau, and drummer Chad Wackerman kept things rolling solidly along, buoying Taylor's superb guitar facility. Taylor stayed close to his recorded roots, the 1970s. The show's climax was a triptych from Sweet Baby James (Warner Bros., 1970): Steamroller" played in the minor, "Sweet Baby James" and "Fire and Rain." With this, Taylor paced his show perfectly. His final encore was "You Can Close Your Eyes," from Mud Slid Slim and the Blue Horizon (Warner Bros., 1971); a fitting conclusion to a nostalgic evening.

Set List: Everyday; Something in the Way She Moves; Walking Man; Your Smiling Face; Line 'Em Up; Angry Blues; Shower The People You Love With Love; Carolina in My Mind; Up On The Roof ; Country Road; Western Plain (When I Was a Cowboy); Jump Up Behind Me; Copperline; (I'm a) Road Runner; (Junior Walker cover); Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight; Steamroller; Sweet Baby James; Fire and Rain; Mexico; Shed a Little Light; How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You); Encore: First of May; Encore 2: You Can Close Your Eyes.

Personnel: James Taylor: guitar, vocals; Luis Conte: percussion; Walt Fowler: horns; Larry Goldings: piano, organ, keyboards; Jimmy Johnson: electric bass; Michael Landau: electric guitars; Chad Wackerman, drums; David Lasley: vocals; Kate Markowitz:vocals; Arnold McCuller; vocals; Andrea Zonn, vocals, fiddle.

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