Written by Dave Clements

This Sunday evening at Toyota Center in Downtown Houston finally delivered what James Taylor (and Jackson Browne) fans had been waiting for. And waiting…and waiting. Audience members could be heard comparing notes on how long they’d been waiting after COVID-19 caused delays and rescheduling. I believe all would agree it was worth waiting for!
Ironically it was in the middle of the MLB American League series between the Astros, our team, and the Boston Red Sox, James Taylor’s team. He mentioned that during his set which in retrospect might have been a mistake on his part given the rousing reaction (i.e., boos) the near sold-out crowd gave him when he made it clear that Boston was his team! However he then good naturedly chuckled and said ‘I think that’s all I’m going to say about that’.
Let me spent a minute talking about Jackson Browne’s opening performance.
Browne was the indeed the ‘opener’ however in my world (and surely in many of the audience members) he is a major headliner any night of the week. I love his songwriting, his voice, his songs and the people he surrounds himself with while on stage. I wish I could study each of his band mates and share their stories right now however we don’t have the time or space. Suffice it to say that there were a lot of talented men and women on stage with both him and JT!
What I didn’t like was that he didn’t play as long as I would have hoped but then again, he was indeed billed as the opener for this show. And as a result, still on my bucket list is hearing him perform The Load Out/Stay. He did sing I’m Alive, a personal favorite as well as Fountain of Sorrow and one of his new songs titled Downhill From Everywhere (title track from the new LP)…a must download!
Then, to the delight of all in attendance, James Taylor came out on stage to accompany Jackson on The Pretender and Running On Empty. This photographer was, however, definitely not delighted I wasn’t allowed to photograph that part of the show…darn!
If you are a JB fan but haven’t seen him lately I’d suggest you go to the HMR Photo Gallery and check him out. He is sporting a beard these days and I think it’s very becoming on him…but others may differ as it is a significant departure to his ‘brand look’. What the hell, a NEW ‘Brand Look’ feels good to me if that is what he wants to do. And at 73 does he really need to care about ‘the look’?
Before moving on to JT please allow me to plug my music photos coffee table books Raising A Hand Volume One & Two. Jackson Browne is in Volume One and the back story of how I got the photo is in Volume Two. People have told me it’s an interesting story. Check it out if you’d like. You can purchase both books at www.RaisingAHand.com.
James Taylor is someone I had never seen perform live yet have always wanted to. And now I get it. Jackson Browne shared that he might be the BIGGEST James Taylor Fan in the building! I have also heard Clint Black say on more than one occasion that he was JT’s biggest fan. The video shown on the stage before his entrance also showcased all of the performers who have been inspired and influenced by him. And I know the patience of the many folks who bought their tickets two years ago for this show might argue they were his biggest fans. The performance he gave let me know as to why so many people love him and his music.
One adoring fan even yelled out between songs ‘Marry me James!’ He smiled, chuckled, paused and then said ‘Uh…why don’t I just buy you a house?’ He then stated that, though it’d taken him three tries, he’d finally gotten it right. Just another example of what, besides the great music, fans find so endearing.
Taylor is funny, very clever and has very expressive mannerisms. His performance is the perfect combination of brilliant song writing and a mellow, distinctive voice. Add to that a set design that, on the surface looked like a simple spreading tree with lights dangling from it. As the evening unfolded it swayed back and forth into many colors and backgrounds. It underlined the peaceful, easy theme for the night. (or , as Jackson Browne had pointed out during his set “my audience and James’ audience are quiet people).
That they were…and from this reviewer’s point of view that felt alright to me! I never thought that Toyota Center could be a ‘listening room’ but it was somehow transformed.
Taylor played all the songs I hoped he would including several of my favorites…Copperline, Sweet Baby James, Fire and Rain. What really surprised me was seeing him pull out an electric guitar and play Steamroller…something that I certainly didn’t expect but thoroughly enjoyed. Like Jackson Brown, he surrounded himself with a mighty impressive group of renowned musicians and singers, many with impressive resumes that truly would take a separate review to give them all the accolades they deserved.
During the encore JB came out and joined James on the show’s finale. They are obviously buddies and it showed with each being a part of the other’s performance. Also, during the encore his son Henry came out and just the two of them performed before the curtains closed. (And although not there, son Ben is also a singer and very worthy of a visit should you have the opportunity & he is in Volume Two opposite Jim Croce’s son AJ).
Thank you both for a terrific evening of entertainment and …’Take It Easy’!
Until next time, support live music any way you can …or one day we may not have it!