James Taylor at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 6/14/2014
The cougars were on the prowl at the Woodlands on Saturday night, where James Taylor and his All-Star Band played to an almost sold-out crowd. JT did not let them down. His resume highlights include being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, five Grammy Awards and numerous Top 10 singles and albums, but the 66-year-old also reminded the audience on a couple of occasions that he was the first artist signed to Apple Records, the Beatles' record label.
Taylor entered the stage waving and saluting the crowd, clad in gray jeans, a blue button-down shirt and navy sport coat. During the first three songs he appeared a bit stiff as he sat on his stool, strumming his acoustic guitar and singing familiar songs. To get a reprieve from the Houston humidity, he soon took off the blazer, rolled up his sleeves and let loose the remainder of the night. At times he looked to be in awe of the crowd's energy and excitement, and the audience really began to get engaged in the show about five songs in.
Taylor's All-Star Band consisted of 11 members, many of whom have had solid careers. In 20-plus songs lasting more than two and a half hours, bassist and leader Jimmy Johnson kept the group on point all night, no small task considering the band was comprised of a drummer, percussionist, horn section, lead guitarist, pianist and four backup singers.
Arguably the most intriguing and recognizable musician in the All-Star Band was Blue Lou Marini, not only due to the styling of his incredible mustache, unforgettable hair and armadillo print T-shirt, but also because he had his own fan club. This group of ten or so people, wearing customized Blue Lou T-shirts, cheered madly whenever their hero was placed under the spotlight for a solo. An original member of the Blues Brothers Band (yes, those Blues Brothers), Marini played several horns during the evening including the saxophone, flute and pennywhistle.
Approximately halfway through crowd favorite "Carolina In My Mind," the report of fireworks began echoing throughout the Pavilion and most of the audience began looking around trying to make sense of the noise. As the lyrics "and hey babe the sky's on fire" were being sung, the crowd erupted in a cheerful roar. Taylor broke into a slight laugh, and stated after the tune was over that he had been warned about the fireworks being set off that evening but it had slipped his mind.
He introduced "One More Go Round" as "a thumper...that's what happens when you start getting lyrically weak." The spunky tune had the American legend hopping on one leg playing his acoustic guitar and making metal faces; it was definitely a sight to behold. Taylor seemed to be truly happy playing to the crowd, as one of a dwindling number of artists who plays lengthy shows. The audience returned the favor by displaying the utmost respect to the band, keeping the talking to a minimum and delivering a standing ovation no less that seven times.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson could learn a thing or two from Taylor. The man has the greatest eyebrows in show business. His voice was soulful and crisp, spot-on just as in his recordings, but his constant facial movements truly delivered the emotions in his songs. His brow cinched, eyebrows waved, forehead softened, and his eyes gently opened and closed; Taylor is definitely a master of his craft.
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