James Taylor and the Civic Center Music Hall: A Review

Once in a while I get the opportunity to see a show where I can sit back, relax and simply enjoy the quality of the musicians in front of me.  Last night at the Civic Center Music Hall was such a night.  The star of the show, James Taylor, assembled a band of tremendous musicians, all stand alone artists in their own right.

On drums was Chad Wackerman who, oddly enough, was the drummer for Frank Zappa at the first concert I saw at the Civic Center in 1984.  It is probable that he does not recall the venue as it has changed considerably since then.  But the incredible acoustics have not changed.  Chad was just a kid when he was playing for Frank but appears to have aged very little in the last 27 years.  Combined with percussionist Luis Conte the rhythmic interplay of last night was extraordinary.

Often times when watching artists perform their songs, whether live or on television, the harmonies are not quite on.  Not last night.  JT had four backing vocalists and the harmonies were absolutely glorious.  Not just pitch-perfect, but very nicely blended with only James voice standing out.  I wish I could tell you their names.

James played the songs you would want him to play and appeared comfortable between songs, telling stories and giving the history of several.  He told the same joke before playing Up On The Roof as in the youtube link I attached to my post of April 26.  Still, his interplay with the crowd was endearing.  After a short intermission he signed autographs for anyone who could manage to make it up to the stage.  The concert started at 8-ish and lasted until about 10:20 with a 20-minute intermission.

The first half of the show before intermission was musically tight and very impressive for live.  After intermission the band seemed a little more loose, moved around the stage and seemed intentional on having a bit more fun.  Yet still tight and impressive.

For me, the highlight of the night happened just before the band left for an encore.  They started to leave but James called the vocalists back.  He said, “I’ve always wanted to play this song in Oklahoma” and began to play Rogers & Hammersteins “O What A Beautiful Morning”, a song my co-workers and family suffer with me singing just about every time we go outside.  There was no suffering last night; five vocalists and one acoustic guitar played in typical James Taylor phrasing.  Really very nice.