James Taylor @ The LG Arena, 9th July 2011

James Taylor

James Taylor, the award winning 63 year old was in Birmingham, an old destination that he and his band visited many years ago. James Taylor, the troublemaker from the 70s charmed the audience from the moment he stepped on stage with his jokes and stories. His stories consisted of memories and the inspiration behind each song on his two part set and made the audience feel as if James Taylor was an old friend.

With 150 songs to Taylors name you would presume that every song played would be his own yet some songs were covers. Despite this the covers helped the show flow well. Taylor came out after the interval and gave out autographs; this showed his good nature and what a “nice guy” he really is. Taylor’s storytelling was great and gave the audience a tour of his life. This made the LG arena feel like the night owl café where Taylor and “The flying machine” “didn’t really take off.” James Taylor really knows how to work a crowd. Sweet baby James worked its timeless magic along with hits Fire and Rain, up on the roof and Mexico!

James Taylor

Taylor’s legendary band really were legendary, Chad Wackerman “An appropriate name for a drummer” was one of the best young drummers I’ve seen in a long time keeping completely in time and control with Taylor. Michael Landau, a prolific session guitarist and Larry Goldings a great organist and accordion player (accordion seemed pointless for Sweet Baby James as you couldn’t hear it.) James Taylor showed his admiration for them by introducing them early and often in the show thereby keeping their names fresh in your mind. The legendary band were very much on show not just Taylor. Artists like Taylor don’t need fancy lights or props when you’ve got a band like his. He could have been busking on the streets of North Carolina and still charmed his audience.

James TaylorJames Taylor

However charming and beautiful Taylor’s singing voice is I believe the first half of the show was dull. Every song well known yet repetitive. I found myself waiting for the actual hit that is performed but not written by Taylor “You’ve got a friend.” If only the first half was like the second. The second had much more variation and introduced the band more so than the first with instrumental solos. It wasn’t till the last but three songs that Taylor announced people should “get involved and dance”. This brought the LG arena to life and provided a great end to the show. There was much more variation in the second half, there was everything from cowboy lullaby “Sweet baby James” devoted to new born baby Joseph to big rock performances such as Mexico. As James Taylor stated “I’ve wrote 150 songs but as you’ll hear I’ve written 15 of those and just visited back to them.” The covers added variety but distracted away from the 100+ hits his fans adore.

James Taylor

Taylor’s music makes me ask as a youngster, what has happened to music today with showstoppers such as take that and Bruno Mars. I would love to have an influence such as James Taylor in my teen years instead of the forced 4 chord dribble spurted out of the music industry today. Taylor made his name by performing live and still 30 years on with a history of self-doubt he continues to impress. “There is nothing like performing, it’s a feeling you cannot describe.”

The show ended with two encores, “How sweet it is to be loved by you” and of course the songs everyone had been waiting for the Carol King classic “You’ve got a friend.” The adoring public were up on their feet from “Mexico” to the very end. A really enjoyable night with a great atmosphere, the 63 year old had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Even after encore “You’ve got a friend” the audience wanted more. I’m sure in years to come Taylor and his band will be welcomed in Birmingham.

James Taylor- set list

Review – John Kirby
Photos – John Bentley

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5 thoughts on “James Taylor @ The LG Arena, 9th July 2011

  1. Like the Paul Simon concert it is a pity photographers (there were only two of us anyway) weren’t allowed anywhere near the stage. Also photographers were required to sign an excessively onerous paper, which didn’t really seem to make sense in terms of plain English, which I think means you can’t publish the photos anywhere else! One wonders if James Taylor personally knows about this or approves. You also wonder if the PR people really want to achieve any extensive publicity!

  2. What a fantastic show , the whole thing was excellent from start to finish , every song was performed perfectly as you would expect from James , great night,great music, thanks James

  3. Having seen Sade at the LG a few weeks ago, I think the reason no one is allowed near the stage is due to two great big video cameras that feed the massive screens either side of the stage. They are moved back and forth right below the stage, so having photographers there is probably a health and safety issue! Still, you still managed to get great pictures John.

  4. Comprehensive and informative review from J Kirby, (+ nice photos by J Bentley). The reviewer obviously has a good feel/understanding of the ambient atmosphere J. Taylor wraps around his “adoring” fans. It was also really useful to read his comments on the backing muscicians something that is frequently skipped over by many reviewers, (J.K. has obviously done his homework!). Other reviews by this reporter also show a good appreciation of artists concerned but as a long time fan of Sweet Baby James this was the one I was most interested in. Look forward to reading more by JK.

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