Review: Chip Taylor offers cozy evening at Linda

It felt more like Chip Taylor’s living room than a concert when the legendary songwriter performed a

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For Gazette music writer Brian McElhiney’s preview of this show, click here.

It felt more like Chip Taylor’s living room than a concert when the legendary songwriter performed at The Linda Friday night.

The country singer and guitarist, best known for writing “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning,” held a small crowd spellbound for more than two hours with songs and stories from his latest album “Yonkers NY.” As the album’s title suggests, the songs deal with Taylor’s childhood in Yonkers, and the show served as a loose narrative of Taylor’s life, from his humble beginnings as James Wesley Voight growing up with brothers Jon and Barry, to playing in one of two country bands in New York state, to his years as a professional gambler.

Before getting into “Yonkers,” Taylor, guitarist John Platania and bassist Tony Mercadante warmed the crowd up with an old Taylor standby, “The Real Thing,” and two songs from 2008’s “New Songs of Freedom.” “Dance with a Hole in Your Shoe” was a highlight early on, with Platania, a veteran of Van Morrison’s band, introducing the crowd to his fluid yet loose, improvisational style.

From there, it was all about “Yonkers,” with some classic material thrown in for good measure. Songs would stop on a whim as Taylor would tell some childhood tale or another, beginning with “Barry Go On,” coupled with a charming tale of how the Voight brothers’ father tricked them into thinking he actually worked for the FBI. “Bastard Brothers” in particular felt greatly enhanced by the tale of Taylor’s mother chastising his brothers for influencing her to take Taylor’s violin away at a young age.

Certain songs Taylor left well enough alone on, to great effect. “Charcoal Sky,” one of the best moments on “Yonkers NY” and indeed the first song Taylor wrote for the record, shone through with a majestic beauty only hinted at on the studio recording. Afterwards Taylor praised Platania’s playing yet again, and for good reason — the guitarist’s lyrical solo soared toward the end of the song, elevating the entire performance.

Throughout, a palpable sense of joy guided Taylor and his players, which was a major part of the show’s charm. After playing “Saw Mill River Road,” which features an excerpt of Johnny Cash’s “Big River,” Taylor performed the Cash song in full, explaining that it would be “sacrilege not to do the whole damn song.” The band’s loose, gritty performance was perhaps the best they laid down all evening — the sound of a band truly loving what they’re playing.

Of course, Taylor played the hits. “Angel of the Morning” shimmered with a stripped-down beauty, while “Wild Thing” stampeded out of the gate with huge chords that sounded as if they might tear The Linda’s roof off. But even these performances offered something new to two very familiar songs, as Taylor stretched on “Wild Thing” to perform some of his earliest material, including the first song he ever wrote, “Faded Blue.” The crowd, which barely filled half the venue, roared its approval at the end.

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