James Taylor at Taco Bell Arena - July 20, 2016
“I don’t think of myself as the one who writes my songs. I think I’m just the first one to hear them.” (James Taylor)
Frankly, coming to Taco Bell arena last night I didn’t have very high expectations. I enjoy James Taylor’s music and think he is an interesting person but I was not expecting what he delivered last night. But JT’s performance was certainly among the top 2 or 3 concerts I have seen in my life.
At 68 years old, he has been at this a long time. Malcolm Gladwell says that after 10,000 hours of doing something, we become experts (“outliers”) at that task. JT is clearly an outlier. I don’t think I have ever seen a performer who was better at reading and interacting with a crowd. He had a way of making the arena feel like a coffee house: just a good ol’ boy from North Carolina sitting on a stool with his acoustic guitar and singing some songs. He interacted with hecklers, told stories, and connected us to our common humanity.
A performer who is comfortable in their skin is very refreshing to watch. Certainly it has been decades since JT has “found his voice” but he has reached a point in his life where he has nothing to prove and could be authentically JT: nothing more, nothing less. His performance was humble and completely lacking in pretense. Which also made it also completely endearing. “I’m so flattered that you came out to hear me sing a few songs tonight” he said to us.
There was no opening act, it was all JT. During the intermission, the band went backstage while JT spent the next 30 minutes signing autographs and having his picture taken with people in the crowd.
The final set had more drive and passion than the first. His band was a collection of seasoned musicians who, like JT, have been around the block and play from their souls. More than anything one could sense their love of music oozing out. And they were good. Tight. Passionate. One had the impression that they were not in this for the money – they would have paid us to play if need be. But I would be glad to fork out another $80 to see them again.