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Soft rock legend James Taylor brings chill factor to BOK Center

on February 19, 2019 No comments
By Jimmie Tramel Tulsa World

James Taylor has of course seen fire and rain.

He saw chill in Tulsa.

Fans at BOK Center chilled out Monday night in the presence of a legendary singer-songwriter who put the crowd between a soft rock and a mellow place.

At many shows, BOK Center is speckled with illuminated mobile phones because concert-goers seem more interested in snapping photographs or recording video than watching a live performance unfold.

This had a different vibe.

During Taylor’s two-hour gig, and a Bonnie Raitt set that preceded it, eyeball surveys of the arena indicated the overwhelming majority of folks in attendance chose to soak in all the “now” they could get instead of letting their phones be in the driver’s seat.

Good call. “Now” was good stuff, and it felt genuine, just like a pre-show introductory video suggested. Said Taylor in the video: “I don’t present a character. I don’t present a version of myself. I present myself.”

Taylor then proceeded to deliver a performance that felt intimate, never mind the large crowd and large venue. He engaged fans in conversation. He shared stories about songs and about his career, sprinkling in enough humor to make you presume that a performer with a serious body of work (over 100 albums sold and a recipient of just about every award there is to offer) doesn’t take himself too seriously. He said many of his songs mean something to him and, before one of them, said “This one, not so much.”

Ultimately, what Taylor did was stage a clinic on how to ratchet up a show for a strong finish. The pre-encore segment of his performance closed with a 1-2-3 punch of “Your Smiling Face,” “Shower the People” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).” Fans were content to sit and be serenaded for much of the show. They were standing and singing along with Taylor by the end of the stretch of songs referenced above.

Bonnie Raitt performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019Bonnie Raitt performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019Bonnie Raitt performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019George Marinelli performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019Bonnie Raitt performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019Bonnie Raitt performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019Bonnie Raitt performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019Bonnie Raitt performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019Bonnie Raitt performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019James Taylor performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019James Taylor performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019James Taylor performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019James Taylor performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019James Taylor performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019James Taylor performs at the BOK Center - Tulsa, OK on February 18, 2019

James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt at the BOK Center – Tulsa, OK  2-18-2019 © Joey Johnson (Tulsa World)

Raitt joined Taylor on stage for the encore and they paid tribute to Chuck Berry by performing “Johnny B. Goode.” That would have been enough of a punctuation mark if the concert had ended right then and there. But Taylor went back to his sweet spot for “You’ve Got A Friend” and he partnered again with Raitt for a closer, “You Can Close Your Eyes.”

Have you seen a headliner do this before? Taylor walked on stage at the start of the opening set just to introduce Raitt — and himself.

“In case you don’t recognize me, I’m James Taylor,” he said. “I’m glad to be back in Tulsa. It hasn’t been that long — just a couple of years. We hope we are not coming back to the well too often.”

Taylor said it has been a great privilege to travel and perform with Raitt, whom he called his “very favorite performing musician.”

Issuing an advisory to fans who hadn’t yet seen Raitt perform live, Taylor said, “Buckle up because your ride is here.

Taylor then turned the stage over to Raitt, who name-dropped pals from the Tulsa music scene during a set that included her most recognizeable songs — “Something to Talk About,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and “Thing Called Love,” which she sang with Taylor. Also in the set: An interesting cover of the INXS song “Need You Tonight.”

Raitt said she was happy to be on the road with Taylor and called it a match made in heaven.

Taylor said he took a photo of himself next to a Garth Brooks picture in his dressing room and texted it to Brooks. Taylor called Brooks a dear friend. “Hello to any friend of his who might be in the audience,” Taylor said.

That story was not, as a giddy person across the aisle hoped aloud, a lead-in for Taylor to cover a Brooks song.

Taylor had plenty of his own gold to spin, beginning with “Carolina in My Mind” and continuing with songs like “Mexico,” “Sweet Baby James,” “Something in the Way She Moves” and “Fire and Rain.” It was all wonderfully chill.

Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389


Twitter: @JimmieTramel

Source: © Copyright Tulsa World But wait, there's more!

Rock Candy: James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt at Verizon Arena

on February 18, 2019 No comments
By Wythe Walker

If you came of age in the cultural crucible of the late 1960s, like most of the crowd at Verizon Arena last Friday night, James Taylor is the embodiment of the singer-songwriter.

With the release of his second album in 1970, hits like “Fire and Rain” and “Sweet Baby James” made Taylor a star in the new style of music that included Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.

The young Taylor was the perfect romantic troubadour: beautiful, but troubled, talented, honest. His pure voice and elegant guitar stylings sent his music straight to the top of the charts. Remarkably, almost fifty years later, the 70-year-old, bald, professorial Taylor — with his craggy face, sagging neck and a voice that isn’t quite as effortless and true — still shines bright. His live performance enthralled the crowd of nearly 9,000 from the moment he walked on stage until the very end.

Notably, Taylor was the first artist signed by the Beatles’ Apple Records label. As a nervous twenty-year old, he auditioned for George Harrison and Paul McCartney. After a few songs, as the story goes, they turned to each other and said, “He’s got it.” He still does.

Before the show, a subdued crowd assembled in the arena, milling beneath the blue toned sodium vapor lights by the concession stands; grandparents gathered for a rock concert.

Bonnie Raitt performing at Verizon Arena - Little Rock, Arkansas 2-15-2019
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James Taylor performing at Verizon Arena - Little Rock, Arkansas 2-15-2019
Bonnie Raitt performing at Verizon Arena - Little Rock, Arkansas 2-15-2019

James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt at Verizon Arena – Little Rock, AR 2-15-2019  © Brian Chilson

The show kicked off around the 7:30 pm mark as Taylor took the stage, looking lean, lanky and Gary Cooperish in his dark jacket and newsboy cap. The crowd came to life, leapt to their feet, cheering and applauding.

Taylor introduced Bonnie Raitt and her band, heaping praise on her and setting a warm, intimate tone that contrasted with the dreary February night.
Raitt was radiant in her turquoise and coral blouse, her voice as peerless as ever, her slide playing meticulous, her bandmates tight. The hour-long set was filled with hits like “Nick of Time,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “Need You Tonight.” Behind her, a beautiful screened backdrop shifted hues as she moved from her trusty ’69 Stratocaster to acoustic guitar and back.
An acclaimed vocalist, Raitt is also a startlingly skilled slide player – in taste, tone and sensitivity in league with Lowell George, Duane Allman, Derek Trucks – and her playing the perfect counterpart to her soulful singing.

The band of seasoned players were flawless as she moved thru the set. Taylor appeared for the last song, a duet of John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love,” and they closed things out with a bang.

After a brief intermission and rapid set change, Taylor and his All Star band — vocalists Kate Markowitz, Arnold McCuller and Dorian Holley; vocalist/fiddler Andrea Zonn; pianist Larry Goldings; horn players Walt Fowler and Lou Marini; guitarists Michael Landau and Jimmy Johnson; percussionists Chad Wackerman and Michito Sanchez — took the stage. Taylor’s musicality is stronger today than it was in his folk rock genesis; Years of exploration into jazz stylings reveal themselves in his chord choices and in his sensibilities. His performance was enhanced by the Broadway-style stage backdrop of large projection screens, fixed cameras, roving cameramen and six large retro Hollywood set lights.

The screens first showed Taylor’s boyhood home. Then as the songs changed, they displayed images ranging from childhood photos of the musicians to old films and photos of Taylor, railroads, Chuck Berry, Tarzan, a pet pug, Mexican floral colors…..on and on it went. Combined with the musicianship, choreography and jokes honed over the past few years of touring, the execution was seamless.

Taylor played his familiar song list — “Country Road,” “Carolina in My Mind,” “Walking Man,” Handy Man,” “Steamroller,” “Up On The Roof” — with new and surprising melodic and instrumental variations, making them fresh and alive. His connection with the audience was palpable and he created the communal, tribal sensation that powered so much of ‘60s popular music and made musicians near cultural gods.

By the end of the evening, when he said, “Thank you, Little Rock, for having us. You’re such a great audience,” you felt thankful to be there, glad you had spent your money, gotten out of your house on a lousy winter night, dealt with the traffic, the rain, the hassle because you and thousands of others like you had been on your feet — clapping, laughing, smiling, singing — with James and the band “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” over and over again.

The sad part came when they turned up the lights, the show was over, and you were walking back to your car feeling the Taylor magic slowly slipping away

“When this old world starts a getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I’m gonna climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space….
Up on the roof.’’

Source: © Copyright Arkansas Times But wait, there's more!

James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt play to each other’s strengths at Erwin Center

on February 14, 2019 No comments
By Peter Blackstock

On paper, it’s not necessarily obvious that James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt would be such compatible touring partners that they’d spend a couple of years on the road together. She’s grounded in blues, funk and soul; his core is folk, pop and jazz. Her personality is radiant and gregarious; he’s calmer, a bit more quirky. He mostly plays acoustic guitar, letting his 11-piece crew color the sound; she favors electric, and can take full command when she lets loose with a slide lead.

And yet there’s clearly enormous mutual respect between the two artists. Raitt opens the shows with an hourlong set, but Taylor comes out first to give her a glowing introduction. Wednesday evening at the Erwin Center, Taylor emerged again at the end of Raitt’s set to duet with her on John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love.” To no one’s surprise, Raitt responded in kind by joining Taylor two hours later for his encore, cutting a rug with Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” before sending folks home with the hushed blessing of “You Can Close Your Eyes” (which they’d sung together in this building at a 2017 Hurricane Harvey benefit).

It’s telling that Taylor ended the show on a quiet note — squeezing his 1971 Carole King-penned smash “You’ve Got a Friend” between those two tunes with Raitt — because although he digs pumping up the volume at times with the rock swagger of “Steamroller” and the shiny pop of “Your Smiling Face,” in the end Taylor has always been a balladeer at heart. At 70, he remains one of the best alive, and the professionalism of his performances may be unparalleled.

It’s not just that he has a sterling repertoire to pull from — “Carolina in My Mind,” “Sweet Baby James,” “Fire and Rain,” “Something in the Way She Moves,” “Mexico” — but also that the presentation is nearly perfect. Stage visuals are unpretentious yet exquisite: Five layered rectangle screens of different dimensions float in front of a full-size backdrop, synchronized with a precision that must take an enormous amount of time and effort to get down before the tour begins. And the sound mix on Wednesday was as good as I’ve heard the Erwin Center sound since — well, the last time Taylor played a full show here, in 2016. Sports arenas that double as concert venues are challenging rooms for sound engineers, yet Taylor’s crew makes it possible to hear everyone in the supporting cast clearly.

Taylor gradually introduces the entire cast as the show rolls on: fiddler/singer Andrea Zonn, drummer Chad Wackerman, bassist Jimmy Johnson, percussionist Michito Sanchez, guitarist Michael Landau, keyboardist Larry Goldings, trumpeter Walter Fowler, saxophonist Lou Marini, and backing singers Kate Markowitz, Dorian Holley and Arnold McCuller. It’s a classy habit that underscores how much he values their contributions.

Bonnie Raitt performs at the Erwin Center, Ausin, TX - 2-13-2019Bonnie Raitt performs at the Erwin Center, Ausin, TX - 2-13-2019James Taylor performs at the Erwin Center, Ausin, TX - 2-13-2019In an unusual but entertaining move, James Taylor responds to an audience member's song request by showing the crowd that the song is indeed on the evening's set list at the Erwin Center, Austin, TX  2-13-2019

McCuller also joined Raitt for a song during her set, which included the obligatory but splendid crowd favorites “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and “Something to Talk About” as well as deeper blues dives such as a solo acoustic rendition of Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” that she dedicated to Austin singer Ruthie Foster. Raitt has deep ties to Austin thanks partly to her former guitarist, the late Stephen Bruton, and she acknowledged several other locals who were in the house: bassist Sarah Brown, Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson and pop star Christopher Cross. (It was the second Erwin Center shoutout in less than a week for Cross, after Stevie Nicks praised him at Saturday’s Fleetwood Mac show.)

Raitt’s four-piece band was great at getting deep into the groove, especially keyboardist Ivan Neville, of the great New Orleans musical family. The only real downside to her set was that too many people arrived late for her 7:30 p.m. start, which meant a lot of searching for seats that distracted from the performance. Still, it was clear her presence on the bill made a difference in the attendance: The show wasn’t a sellout, but the Erwin Center used its larger south-stage setup, a higher-capacity configuration than the half-room arrangement that was used for Taylor’s 2016 concert.

Source: © Copyright Austin360 But wait, there's more!