Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 was a very, very good day.
Actually, I don’t remember much about the day itself, but the night was out of this world, thanks to Mr. James Vernon Taylor.
I was 21 the last time I saw JT live, and I loved the concert way back then. But not the way I loved this one.
Back then, I had a lawn seat and a cooler and some cute guys with me. We had a fun summer evening in the sweltering Maryland heat. There were people there of all ages picnicking at the park. It was a family event, but we were there as college graduates, enjoying our first summer of real adulthood.
This time, we were indoors at the Saddledome. The crowd was virtually all middle aged and it was all about the music.
The show started right on time. There was no opening act. James Taylor himself walked onto the stage by himself at 8 pm.
He had me at hello. But then again, there was no hello. He just walked out (to a standing ovation), sat on his stool and started fingerpicking. I knew within seconds what song he was playing, and my heart soared as he and his perfectly-pitched back-up singers joined him on the stage and started singing Wandering:
“I’ve been wandering, early and late
From New York City to the Golden Gate
And it don’t look like
I’ll ever stop my wandering.”
I sang along proudly, reverentially, not caring that anyone else around me wasn’t singing along. I silently dared them to tell me to shut up.
When the band kicked in after the first verse, it was almost too much. Too much beauty, too much nostalgia.
Throughout the night, he broke some unwritten “rules” of singer-songwriter stage etiquette.
- He started on time.
- He didn’t say hello before the first song. He didn’t say “glad you are here,” or “glad I am here,” or anything like that. He just walked in and got down to it. He didn’t talk at all until after the second song.
- He sang sitting down.
- He sang with his eyes closed.
I felt great after the first two songs. Not only because they were two of my favorites and perfectly performed, but because he didn’t do it the way we’re “supposed” to do it. And it worked. Boy did it work.
When he did finally speak to us, it was with such kindness that I swear the arena got warmer. Every song that followed was a celebration – joyously offered, gratefully received.
He introduced his band members one at a time, throughout the 2½-hour show, instead of all at once. Each member got a proper introduction and then either a handshake or a hug from JT and a huge round of applause from the crowd.
The man oozes joy.
I left the show feeling transformed. Cleansed. Inspired.
I have to confess, I was beginning to doubt my loyalty to my first-ever music hero, but after that show, I can say confidently that I have it all back now: the admiration, the inspiration, the awe.
But James, I still want to know: what does a girl have to do to be your back-up singer?