Last night I caught part of “A Tribute to James Taylor” on PBS’s Great Performances. The performers and their renderings were a mixed bag. Taylor played a few tunes at the end and, as anyone who’s seen him would predict, stole the show.
I liked Bonnie Raitt’s version of “Rainy Day Man” and Alison Krauss’ “Going to Carolina”. Keith Urban proved (to me) that he’s more than just a pretty rock-n-roll wannabe with his rendition of “Country Road”. Sting was overmatched in his attempt to cover the complex “Close Your Eyes”, but it was a fine choice of a relatively obscure Taylor tune. Bruce Springsteen’s offering of “Millworker” was powerful and another brilliant choice of Taylor’s little known material. It was a nice show but would have been exponentially better if they’d just shown a JT concert.
James Taylor is one of handful of artists that can claim complete mastery of all aspects of his craft; singing, playing, and writing. He’s also a stellar live performer. Of the three finest concerts I’ve attended over 30 years, two of them were Taylor’s. If you haven’t seen JT, you owe it to yourself to do it, especially if it’s at Mud Island (Memphis) in the rain.