James Taylor @ ICC Sydney Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday February 14
A myriad of adjectives come to mind when one thinks of James Taylor – singer, songwriter, guitarist, occasional actor and American folk icon. Perhaps the most fitting one, however, would be ‘beloved’. It takes all of a stroll out onto centre stage and a tip of his cap to elicit a huge round of applause – some even take the initiative even further by presenting the man of the hour with a standing ovation. Not ten minutes later, he's fielding a half-dozen “I love you”s from all across the room – fitting, given the date – and assuring every last caller-out that he loves them too.
As Taylor introduces his ten-piece backing band across the course of the show, he makes a point of embracing each one of them and making note of their individual accomplishments. When the rest of the band takes leave during intermission, Taylor remains onstage to sign as many autographs and take as many selfies as he can for the full 20 minutes, only stopping when the lights go back down.
Across the two-and-a-half-hour show, Taylor draws from his classic hits right up to his 2015 album Before This World, jokingly justifying the latter's inclusion by telling the crowd it “sounds like the old tunes anyway”. The crowd goes pin-drop quiet in captivation during ‘Carolina In My Mind’ and ‘Fire And Rain’, but is just as quickly on its feet for joyous sing-alongs like ‘Mexico’ and ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)’.
His bandmates are in full swing, with particular highlights coming from powerhouse drummer Steve Gadd and Blues Brothers alum ‘Blue’ Lou Marini on the saxophone. Taylor is also backed by a trio of exceptional backing vocalists, who fill out the unmistakable harmonies of ‘You've Got A Friend’ and steal the show during ‘Shower The People’.
As far as gentle, nostalgic arena shows go, one couldn't ask for a great deal more than what Taylor and co. offer up this evening. Although astronauts in the middle of an interstellar crisis may not have the time for Taylor's unique brand of bittersweet folk rock, a crowd of mostly over-55s on a pleasant Tuesday evening have all the time in the world. Thanks, old friend.