James Taylor - Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Wednesday February 8

Live Review

When I told friends in the weeks before the gig I was going to see J.T., I was met with eager excitement from people that I hadn’t expected to be fans. After some back and forth conversation it became evident to them that the J.T. I spoke of was not the one they admired for bringing sexy back, but rather the one I have admired since I was young for creating effortlessly enjoyable music for people of all ages.

Taylor is a man that is incredibly difficult to fault. At the ripe old age of 68, he is still able to captivate and incorporate an entire stadium crowd throughout a 3-hour set. From the moment he walked on stage, the crowd was transfixed, he oozed charm and a boyish wit that had the entire stadium in fits of laughter during the performance.

 

He played with an all-star band comprising of a multitude of established musicians, all successful in their own right. However the real star of the show was Mr Taylor himself, as an unadulterated virtuoso of the guitar and with a voice that hasn’t aged since the 60s, Taylor unquestionably stacks up as one of the most preserved talents amongst all his contemporaries.

 

Taylor was quick to assure the crowd that he would not be drowning them in his new material. Instead he opted to go heavy on the classics that brought him into the stardom he has attained over his half century long career. Taylor belted out an epic rendition of ‘Country Road’ early in the performance, which received the first of many, many standing ovations throughout the night.

 

The way the songs were structured for a live audience was obviously something that has been crafted over the decades, and there were several examples of this throughout the night. The musical crescendo in songs like ‘Up On The Roof’, ‘Shower The People’ and ‘Copperline’ gave the audience ample time to soak in Taylor’s brilliance before being able to turn their attention to the very talented ‘All-Stars’ that formed his band.

 

His appreciation for all aspects of the performance was undoubtedly genuine and displayed time and time again as the show went on. This was made blaringly obvious during the 25 minute interval. While most patrons were rushing to join titanic bathroom lines or bar crowds, Taylor was graciously sitting on the edge of the stage, greeting the die-hard fans who had formed a cluster at his feet. I couldn’t resist. I got out of my seat and made my way down to the stage to become another sardine in the ocean of overwhelming emotion.

 

After watching fans pour their hearts out for 15 minutes to a man that has been such a significant impact on their lives, it was finally my turn. I called his name and he gazed over to me, with my hand outstretched I told him, ‘you have and always will be my ultimate hero. I love you,’ to which he smiled warmly, before turning our formal handshake upwards into a modern day palm-clench.

 

Taylor’s electric guitar made its only appearance for a commanding performance of ‘Steamroller’, as did a very heavy southern-drawl on his vocals, stuttering and scatting his way through the verses to the rousing applause of the audience.

 

Another thing to love about this man is his reluctance to play into any sort of clichéd live performance moments without acknowledging the crowd’s awareness. Just before the second encore commenced he quipped ‘I hope that looked spontaneous’ in regards to the band’s obvious intention to return to the stage.

 

Even though it was always going to happen, there was still a nervous minute long wait before the band took their places once more to deliver an inspiringly beautiful version of ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, which stood out as a hair-raising clincher in a fantastic arrangement of songs.

 

Taylor provided three hours of classic songs blended with new gems, giving the entire audience a means of escape and enjoyment. He performed with a style and humility that leaves me hoping it won’t be another seven years before he returns.

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