Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Old dog, new tricks

Went to see James Taylor at Hammersmith last night. I've been waiting for somebody to do a show like this for the last ten years. If I described it as a cross between a solo show and a Powerpoint presentation your heart would probably sink. It shouldn't. By using a screen to show us old pictures of his teenage girlfriend, his parents, the nephew for whom "Sweet Baby James" was written, the actual frozen man who was found in the permafrost, the mass Moonie wedding that inspired "Line 'Em Up" and an advert for the Cortina GT he bought when in London in 1968, he was able to turn his usual between-songs patter into something even more resonant. (On a couple of songs he even ran in some footage of his home town choir providing choruses and his custom-made rhythm machine was trundled on for a few tunes.) It's an elegant solution to the problem of what to do with an oldies show that is essentially marking time while also distracting our attention from the absence of the percussion that underpins his song as surely as it does Paul Simon's. Anyway, here, from a German fan site, is James's recipe for bluefish.


  1. Sounds great. Jimmy Webb did something simlilar - without slides - at the Bloomsbury Theatre last year, and once musicians hit their anecdotage, it's a joy to behold. But one of the reasons I didn't see Taylor this time is that I think he needs the full band to make it work, especially in such a big venue.

  2. I am glad you enjoyed the JT show. I was tempted to go, and the fact that he was unaccompanied was part of the attraction. I love watching great artists play acoustic and tell anecdotes on their own. It's so intimate, almost like having them in your living room with a few friends. It's also as if you are all more equal, without the pomposity and distance created by a loud rock band.

    But is the emotion still there? I only found out recently when I saw a documentary on British TV that JT was a terrible junkie in the early days. Apparently, even the real wild men of rock just couldn't compete! You wouldn't have known it from the music...or would you?

  3. Anonymous7:11 pm

    Roy Harper also had an accompanying slide show for his 60th birthday gig at the Royal Festival Hall a few years back.

  4. Edward. It's always the quiet ones.

  5. Anonymous8:00 pm

    A friend emailed me this blog site. I was there too on Monday and I've seen JT most times he's been over. For a lovely old clip check out JT with Carly Simon from the OGWT 1977 playing You can close your eyes in their house on Martha's Vineyard - James looks a little on the thin side - I wonder why ???
    It was a really great concert - my tear ducts worked overtime and his voice in spite of his age is still brilliant.
    Those at the concert may remember that he did a couple of encores, went off - everybody thought the show had ended - people got up and were walking down the stairs in the circle where I was sitting. Then he came on again and performed - You can close your eyes - It was really great for me especially. I really wanted to hear that track so during the interval I went to the front of the stage and threw a little package on the stage - it landed near his guitar. It had a kind of musical calculator which I dreamed up years ago and a little note asking politely for that track. When I got back to my seat in the circle I saw that the little package was not there - removed by roadies.
    I really think that after he'd finished his planned encores someone showed him my note and being the real pro, he came out and performed it for me and my wife Sally and for everyone there. Too much of a coincidence if not !
    Wish I had a recording of it.