April 27, 2011
Music Hall at Fair Park
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by Scott Witty
There's something about being in the presence of James Taylor that's very comforting to the soul. Just ask any member of the sold-out audience attending his show a Fair Park Music Hall on April 27. They'll all tell you the same thing. You just can't help but smile when this consummate performer takes the stage and opens his mouth to sing his wonderful songs.
Taylor's remarkable career is entering its sixth decade. With that said, he made sure to take this appreciative, obviously older audience, down memory lane by deftly mixing in yesterday's classics with the unfamiliar new. And to further confuse the situation, the singer decided to mine a few deep cuts from his illustrious past. It may have bothered some to hear Taylor dwell on these obscure tunes, but the majority appreciated every golden nugget the singer delivered. His easy banter with the crowd between songs, coupled with tales of his life and the story behind the creation of his music, brought an interesting dimension to this show artist's rarely consider revealing. And, with Taylor signing autographs and posing for pictures at intermission, well, you just can't get any more personable with your audience than that.
Throughout the evening, Taylor was funny and entertaining. When the occasional shout out from the crowd reached his ears on stage, the 63-year old musician replied. Nothing was out of bounds, and that 'down home feel' the artist inspired elevated the show for all those in attendance. Again, the real poignant moments came when the songwriter took time to explain the thoughts behind the crafting of his timeless music.
This wasn't going to be a greatest hits show. Taylor deftly balanced new material with old. When it looked like the show might get away from him, the angular 6'3" singer reeled the crowd back in with the hits. "Up On a Roof", "Something in the Way She Moves", "Carolina on My Mind", "Fire & Rain", "Mexico", "You Can Close Your Eyes", "Steamroller", "Walking Man" and "How Sweet It Is" all made it into the show. If there was any downside to the evening, it was the omission of "You've Got a Friend" from the night's performance. It was the only disappointment I heard from the crowd as they headed to the exits.
If there was a single highlight to point out, and believe me there were many, it had to be the artist's explanation behind his hit, "Sweet Baby James." The attentive crowd instinctively knew they were bearing witness to a very special moment in Taylor's life. You could feel the emotion in the audience swell as the songwriter began to play his iconic song. When he finished, the applause was long and loud. Taylor, in turn, gave everyone a heartfelt thank you for being appreciative and understanding.
Simply put, this was a powerful, yet intimate show by one of music's all-time greats. Through some two and a half hours of joyful music, that included not one but two encores, the songwriter and his music did plenty of talking. Yeah, sweet baby James omitted one classic tune and many were slightly disappointed. But when it was all said and done, by evening's end, thousands knew they had a friend, an endearing one, in James Taylor.