TORONTO - James Taylor is a great storyteller. And an even better singer-songwriter.
obvious strengths overcame any sleepy or slick moments during Taylor's
stop at the Molson Amphitheatre last night in front of some 12,000
The 57-year-old New Englander, whose longevity in music is
impressive given his debut album came out 37 years ago, opened his show
last night simply and beautifully with the acoustic folk-pop song,
Secret O' Life, from his 1977 album, JT.
It was appropriately stripped-down and spare as Taylor sat on
a stool playing acoustic guitar, accompanied only by his keyboardist
Larry Goldings, while his exquisite-sounding tenor rang out into the
cool summer night.
The magic of that languid, lovely moment would soon be lost
as Taylor's band quickly expanded to ten people and other favourites
like Your Smiling Face later came across as overproduced.
Tayor, who is primarily thought as a folk artist,
incorporates equal parts jazz, blues and country into his music so
there is a complexity that sometimes calls for more instrumentation.
But it's when he is playing his acoustic guitar backed by few others that James is at his sweet-sounding best.
that vein, there was a cozy feeling to the concert given the photos
projected onto three large video screens behind Taylor, who possesses
an undeniable folksy charm.\
The images ranged from people to animals to landscapes to members of his band as babies or in their youth.
Taylor was happy to show off two songs --There's Nothing Like 100 Miles
To Make Me Forget About You and Everybody Has The Blues -- that had
been covered by Ray Charles whose image made it onto the video screens
-- it was his more familiar material that really struck a chord.
Standouts included covers like Handy Man, How Sweet It Is (To
Be Loved By You) and Up On The Roof and his own Mexico -- complete with
sombreros for his two horn players -- Fire And Rain, Carolina In My
Mind, Sweet Baby James and Country Road.
Newer material like Line 'Em Up, from his 1997 release,
Hourglass, which was preceded by a hilarious story combining Richard
Nixon's White House farewell and the mass marriage by the Moonies at
Madison Square Garden, also held up well.
An equally funny story introduced God Have Mercy On The
Frozen Man, which Taylor said he thought was originally about the body
of a 100-year-old corpse found in the ice up near Ellesmere Island but
later turned out to be about his own father.
"He was about as emotionally available," cracked Taylor.
But it was a mystery why Taylor took a 20-minute break after an hour on stage, just as things were getting going.
since he and the band returned to perform an even slower second hour of
music that included covers of the Dixie Chicks' Somedays You Gotta
Dance, Tom Rush's Diamond Joe, and Eddie Cochran's Summertime Blues and
his own overblown blues number, Steamroller, which didn't quite work.
Even Taylor said he wasn't sure why the band left the stage
given they just "sat around and watched the clock" until they could