Review: James Taylor & his Legendary Band – MEN Arena

James Taylor & his Legendary Band – MEN Arena - 7th July 2011

The MEN Arena is full as if ready for a boxing match or huge rock ‘n’ roll concert but tonight there is no big fanfare... no laser show... no giant robots... no video screens.

A tall figure strolls onto the stage as if playing in a folk club and says “Good evening!” as if to each individual.

No need for a support – the ticket read “James Taylor & his Legendary Band”– and for over 2 hours that alone was delivered – no need for padding.

Opening with a tribute to Buddy Holly – he suggests that he could reverse “the day that music died”

Taylor is not a stadium kind of guy – he just happens to be able to fill them full of a well versed partisan crowd who hang on his every word. The show was more about his self-defacing banter and anecdotes as it was about the songs. “I haven’t really wrote 150 songs – just 10 about fifteen times each !”

The show was crafted with various sized line-ups from solo guitar to full 8 piece with exquisite harmonies. Each member proving they were there as much on merit as the affection he has for them all.

Pleasing the crowd as he sang through “Mexico” –, “Carolina on my mind” , “ Sweet Baby James” and “Up on the roof” the crowd knew they were witnessing something special. The sound was perfect with every subtle piece of playing fitting together like an acoustic jigsaw.

Taylor's charisma and wit are rare in visitors to such venues but this charm keeps the pyrotechnics bill down.

The band came back with encores of “How sweet it is”, “Shower the people” and the outstanding festival of harmonies “Traffic Jam” then they left and the house lights came up much to the surprise of the crowd.

The golden rule of performance is “keep them wanting more” – never was this more the case – as this represented for the first time, to my memory, that he has omitted Carole King’s “You’ve got a friend” from the set list! We were stunned but strangely did not feel short-changed.

Often with entertainers we see the person they want us to see . Tonight James Taylor showed us the person he is.

Rarely does the MEN Arena see a night so free from knobs and whistles but if your cake is as good as James Taylor you don’t have to spend too much on icing!

Review by Ian Donaghy