James Taylor @ Riverbend (6/11/08)

Although I can only find eleven ticket stubs, I’m pretty sure that last night’s James Taylor concert was my 17th.  I haven’t missed any of his local appearances since 1992.  If James Taylor’s in Cincinnati, I go see him; it’s just something I do.  The downside of seeing a musician that many times–even if he’s a favorite–is that things can get a bit repetitive after awhile.  Really, do I need to hear “Fire and Rain” or “Something in the Way She Moves” again?  They’re lovely songs, but over a dozen live performances is enough for me.

That’s why I was happy to hear that James and his band had recorded an album of covers (release date TBD) and that his versions of other people’s songs would feature heavily in this summer’s set.  It’s a good idea.  Although James Taylor is an accomplished songwriter in his own right, many of his most famous songs were actually covers.  He usually does a good job interpreting other people’s songs.  I was interested in hearing the new covers he’d chosen and how his versions held up against the originals.

The majority of the songs in the Riverbend show were covers.  JT’s got to keep the rubes up on the lawn happy, though, so he threw in some hits as well.  It was a pretty good mix.  Some of the covers were songs already associated with James Taylor like “You’ve Got a Friend” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”.  Most of them were versions of songs I’d never heard him perform before like “Why Baby Why” and “It’s Growing”.

The highlight of the covers was “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” from the musical Oklahoma.  It sounds like a terrible idea on paper, but it worked surprisingly well.  If he hadn’t announced that the song was from the musical, I probably would’ve taken it for a new original.  The lowpoint of the night was James Taylor’s version of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman”.  First of all, a lot of the audience laughed when James announced that the song was made famous by Glen Campbell.  What?!  Why are you laughing at Glen Campbell?  Glen Campbell is awesome.  That got me all grumpy.  Getting me even more grumpy was Lou Marini’s flute-work on “Wichita Lineman”.  It was far too loud and interfered with James Taylor’s singing.  He ruined the song.  Lower your volume or wait to play your flute until James is finished singing, please.  You’re dealing with the lyrics of Jimmy Webb here; they deserve to be heard.  Thank you.

Here’s the setlist for the show.  In the case of the covers, I have included the composer or the musician who originally recorded the song.

First set: It’s Growing (the Temptations)/Get a Job (the Silhouettes)/Country Road/Whiskey Before Breakfast (traditional instrumental)/(I’ve Got to) Stop Thinkin’ ‘Bout That/Wichita Lineman (Jimmy Webb)/Why Baby Why (George Jones)/Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ (Rodgers & Hammerstein)/Everyday (Buddy Holly)/You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King)/Mexico/Shed a Little Light

Second set: Instrumental intro–>Hound Dog (Big Mama Thornton)/Only One/Walking Man/(I’m a) Road Runner (Junior Walker)/Sweet Baby James/Some Days You Gotta Dance (the Dixie Chicks)/On Broadway (the Drifters)/Steamroller/Carolina in My Mind/Your Smiling Face/Shower the People

Encore: In the Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett/Steve Cropper)–>Knock on Wood (Eddie Floyd/Steve Cropper)/How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)(Holland-Dozier-Holland) –>goofy outro

Looking back, I’d say this was my favorite James Taylor concert since at least the mid-90s.  I’ve never seen him put on a bad show, but all the fresh material this time out really added to my enjoyment.  A newcomer to James Taylor might have preferred a more traditional JT setlist, but the covers-heavy set he’s performing this summer was just what I needed.  I look forward to the release of his new record.

James Taylor @ Riverbend (6/11/08)

(James Taylor setlist notes)

James Taylor @ Riverbend (6/11/08)

(ticket stubs)

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11 Responses to James Taylor @ Riverbend (6/11/08)

  1. Mr. Guilt says:

    I was wondering what the concert was last night. I was riding out to the Convent, past Silver Grove, Kentucky. I saw three or four boats floating behind Riverbend, trying to freeload. I wonder if they actually hear anything…

  2. Bookmole says:

    Glen Campbell does indeed rock.

  3. M-----l says:

    I'm sure they can hear something. I doubt it's a crisp sound, though. All the speakers are facing away from the river and the Riverbend "shell" probably muffles the rest.
    Still, they've got the right idea. At least they don't have to spend all that money on "convenience charges". I got about $8 worth of extra charges tacked onto my ticket last night…and I bought the thing at the Riverbend box office the night of the show. Grrrr.

  4. M-----l says:

    The guy has one unfortunate mug shot and somehow that makes everyone forget about all the great songs he's recorded. He's a laughingstock now.

  5. Mr. Guilt says:

    I know what you mean about all the random charges. We saw a concert there once, and they wanted to charge both my wife and I for parking. They said we all get charged.

  6. M-----l says:

    Yeah, Riverbend has a terrific scam going on with parking. They charge per ticket, not per vehicle. If you take a car with 5 people in it down there, you'll end up paying about $16-17 just for parking. Of course, the parking charge is hidden away in the cost of the ticket, so hardly anyone notices.

  7. Amy Jeynes says:

    I like JT. Don't know 1% of his oeuvre, but I always did like him. I had a poster of him on my wall for a while as a kid. If my friend and I were playing Truth or Dare at my house, the dare was to kiss my James Taylor poster. When we were at her house, the poster to kiss was Shaun Cassidy.
    I used to love "Damn This Traffic Jam" when I was a kid. I really like JT's "Mockingbird" with Carly Simon. I'm sure you know three dozen JT songs that are far greater than those, but my listening during JT's heyday was mostly limited to whatever was playing on Casey Kasem's American Top 40 on Saturday afternoon.
    Lou "Blue Lou" Marini… I associate him with the Blues Brothers. Shame on him for hogging the spotlight. Maybe some sound person didn't know how to mic a flute.

  8. M-----l says:

    Those are both good songs. "Mockingbird's" never been on a JT album, though. I think you have to buy Carly Simon's Greatest Hits to get it. I've got it sitting around here somewhere. There was a time in my life when I thought it was fun to collect everything JT ever recorded. Now my fandom is limited to just seeing him whenever he comes to town.

  9. Connie says:

    Hi,
    If you wanna hear a better version of "Wichita Lineman" that James does, U Tube has a clip on there when he was on GMA a couple weeks ago. I think it's one of the best contemporary versions of that song I've heard. But the master is still Glen, I think…..
    Connie

  10. M-----l says:

    I checked out the video. It is pretty good…definitely much better than the version I heard.I bought the new James Taylor covers record on Wednesday, but I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. I hope the version of "Wichita Lineman" on there is closer to the GMA version.

  11. Connie says:

    Yeah it sounds like it would be a pretty good album to have….I'm planning on picking up a copy myself……C:

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