James Taylor right at home at Tanglewood

Joined by surprise guest Bonnie Raitt
James Taylor and band perform Tuesday night at Tanglewood.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
James Taylor and band perform Tuesday night at Tanglewood.

Categories: Entertainment

LENOX, Mass. — James Taylor lives in the Berkshires, and many believe he gives his best performances there.

That held true Tuesday night. Taylor and band played with great energy and joy — especially the second set — before a full house and lawn at Tanglewood.

The crowd ranged in age from toddlers to seniors. It’s often a multi-generational family affair at Taylor’s concerts.

“We got lucky with the weather — on this interdependence day,” said Taylor, with a clever twist, moments after opening the show by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

His resonant voice, which Rolling Stone magazine once said was “as reassuring as a warm fireplace,” was backed by his longtime band and vocalists.

It was still light out when he sang “Country Road,” “Carolina In My Mind” and “Sunny Skies,” and you got the sense that the crowd was still settling in.

But late in the first set, darkness descended, “Mexico” brought the crowd alive and Taylor announced there would be a surprise guest, someone whose career paralleled his (“We kinda came out of the box together,” he said).

Bonnie Raitt walked onstage and the audience roared. 

Together they sang one of Taylor’s early tunes, “Rainy Day Man,” and then Raitt tore into “Thing Called Love” with masterful guitar work, bringing the crowd to its feet.

After Raitt’s exit, Taylor simply sparkled, playing the beautiful solos “Sweet Baby James” (with its Berkshires reference) and “Fire and Rain,” and then “Shower the People,” “Your Smiling Face” and “How Sweet It Is” in succession. Now no one was sitting.

Raitt rejoined Taylor on a  tribute to Chuck Berry with “Johnny B. Goode,” and the night ended with “You Can Close Your Eyes” from Taylor’s most underrated album, “Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon.”

Fireworks followed over Stockbridge Bowl, also known as Lake Mahkeenac.

Throughout the concert, Taylor repeatedly expressed his appreciation to fans and provided anecdotes before some songs. 

“Something in the Way She Moves,” he said, was the audition song for Apple Records that he played in London for Paul McCartney and George Harrison. 

That was nearly five decades ago. 

On Tuesday night — as well as Monday night, his first of two Tanglewood shows — Taylor brought the crowd back to those early days with his much-loved music.

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