James Taylor: One Man Band (A Very, Very Late Concert Review)
Available on CD and DVD
One Man Band
About a year ago my life changed. Just as it does for many people, it was one spectacular moment in time.
The arrival of DIRECTV.
With thousands of useless channels I was able to find one gold nugget. One needle in the haystack. A diamond in the rough. The Holy of holies. And as luck would have it, it was in HD!
I can’t quite describe the channel, as it is a bit random. Sometimes you’ll see movies you’ve never heard of before, and then they’ll follow up with cage fighting. Other times they would show a reality show of how to binge drink, only to delve into a documentary on standardized testing the next hour. But what really attracted me to this channel was the concert series: HDNET Concerts.
Having a strange affinity for concerts recorded live, I set my DVR to record the first one I saw. James Taylor: One Man Band.
The Colonial Theater, Pittsfield, Massachusetts
The Colonial Theater
The concert took place at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 2007. The imagery in the introduction was absolutely serene. The greenery and beauty of Massachusetts, the main street feel of Pittsfield, and the soothing speaking voice of James Taylor frames what is to come: A back to basics performance enhanced by pure musical talent.
From the opening, there is a glimpse of the humor of James Taylor. As he prepares to begin the concert, one attendee in the audience shouts, “Go Red Sox!”
His reply: “Yeah, Yankees suck!”
(He eventually would apologize to Joe Torre in the end credits.)
His humor maintains throughout the concert providing witty anecdotes about family, politicians, politics, the music and himself.
Larry Godlings, The Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and "Big Foot"
As the title would suggest, the band consists mainly of him playing the acoustic guitar. However, in many of the numbers he is accompanied by pianist Larry Godlings, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and even a wood-shop type drum machine affectionately referred to as “Big Foot.”
From the opening song, “Something in the Way She Moves” James Taylor’s playing rolls out crisp, clean notes on his acoustic guitar beautifully; conjuring imagery of a wave undulating in the open sea. Moving on to such songs as “Country Road” and Carole King’s, “You’ve Got a Friend” James Taylor shows how timeless music is enhanced by back to basics roots. In true creative fashion, the songs “My Traveling Star” and “Shower the People” are backed by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Pre-recorded in his home studio, the chorus is timed to synchronize perfectly to his performance. A definite highlight of the show, this is the creative genius of James Taylor.
Towards the end of the concert the standards come out. “Sweet Baby James”, “Carolina in My Mind” and “Fire and Rain” help to round out the concert.
In the end, the last visual of James Taylor is him sitting on a lonely stool playing the final notes of the concert. With his back to the camera and the audience barely visible in the foreground, one can begin to imagine how this legend’s career began; by himself, with only his guitar and heart full of words. Truly, a one man band.
For the James Taylor fan who has been there from the beginning, I hope that this review does justice to the life work of a true musician. For those not familiar with James Taylor, I hope this inspires musicians to explore music at its simplistic form, stripped of the technology that makes the mediocre great. With an understanding that great music which becomes can always remain, simple.
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