He was witty. He was funny. He joked about "having to" take an intermission as he flashed his hand-drawn set list board to the audience — something crowds don't usually get to see (especially at a sold-out show of 6,500 people). He was kind. He was humble beyond belief. And he brought the Central Oregon summer-night vibes into full effect. The love was in the air as a fan shouted, "I love you!" as James walked on stage, speaking his first words of the evening, "I love you, too."
It was a beautiful half moon (something Taylor cued the crowd to look up and see) with blue skies. Locals were floating on the river (of course) and families were even posted on the grass all the way up into the hills east of the Old Mill — just to get a touch of his decades-old sound. Something the man himself, the one and only James Taylor, gratefully pointed out.
"We're lucky to play in this part of the country," he told the crowd — putting sheer positive light on the luck, for not only the music lovers of Bend, but the chance for even the biggest names in the industry to experience our dot on the map.
Taylor graced the stage around 7:10pm as the sun fell west of the prominent Hayden Homes Amphitheater stage. He shared personal and intriguing stories in-between almost every song — which made the reserved seating section (that sold for almost $450 bucks a pop per seat) feel like we were hangin' around a campfire with the world-renowned songwriter. We listened to stories of his alleged most requested song "Pig," inspired by his pet pig he had in his early 20s named Mona, in addition to tales of singing "Something In The Way She Moves" for Paul McCartney and George Harrison. He also shared the joys of working with The Chicks and of course, his longtime collaborator and former wife, Carly Simon.
The forever cherished sounds and lyrics of songs such as "Copperline," "Country Road," "Rainy Day Man," "Steamroller" and of course, "Mexico," were paired with thoughtful and colorful visuals on the screen behind him — including footage of Taylor surrounded by marigolds, falling leaves and whimsical animations. Truly a Taylor fan's fairy tale. There was also live footage on the screen of dynamite solos by the legendary jazz drummer Steve Gadd — whose career has comprised of working with artists like Paul Simon, Chick Corea and Steely Dan, to name a few. Taylor's 12-piece All Star Band lineup also included vocals by Taylor's son, Henry Taylor, Dorian Holly (vocals), Kate Markowitz (vocals), Andrea Zonn (vocals/fiddle), Larry Goldings (piano), Lou Marini (horns), Walt Fowler (keyboards/horns), Michael Landau (guitar), Jimmy Johnson (bass) and Cuban percussionist Luis Conte.
As the Old Mill staff delightfully escorted fans to and from seats, I had the chance to chat with Amanda Zimmerman, marketing manager and charitable lead for the Old Mill/Hayden Homes Amphitheater, who shared with Source Weekly: "James Taylor is a legend, a true entertainer, and it was incredible to see the house full of folks there to enjoy his work. The evening was special in many ways. His ability to captivate the whole place with stories about his songs and the people in his life was magical. Not to mention bringing his son on tour and on stage to perform with him — that gave me goosebumps. We'll carry around the memory of this show for a while!"