Friday night I had the privilege of seeing not one but two music legends hit the stage and bring classics to life once again. For a crowd which in some cases spanned 3 generations and seemed to span over 5 decades in some cases I felt fortunate to see James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt play. Two musicians who have pursued their craft longer than I have been alive, or even a thought in my parent’s minds, reminded me what music is for so many of us. A way in which we all communicate and a means to share with others that supersedes all our differences. JT and Bonnie both have a sound which the only way I can describe it is a feeling of being at home. Songs which are timeless, relate-able, and a part of so many fan’s hearts and memories. I can think of countless times in my life that these songs from this show stand out in my life. It was one of my favorite shows to attend to date, and witnessing what these musicians mean to so many a cherry on top.
Bonnie Raitt, the opener, yes you are right she was the opener. A name like Bonnie opening for anyone put this show in perspective for me. Before the show I had mixed reactions from friends and family. I would say, I am seeing James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt tonight. The reaction was either “who the heck?” or “oh wow you’re so lucky that’s an amazing show!”. Much like my last trip to the Xcel to see Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan I found myself in the midst of a generational gap of sorts. I grew up with artists like this played in my home. yet so many my age have no idea who these people are. Until, I say what about THIS song or THIS song or THIS. Then the tone changes. Bonnie made her return to the tour Friday night after emergency surgery kept her from travel. But you could have fooled me because there wasn’t a lack of energy for her entrance as JT introduced her for her set.
Bonnie’s set was a shorter one but it was far from lacking. And brilliantly placed to bring the set to a peak was the crowd favorite Something to Talk About. Now, I was initially thinking “oK, I just really need to hear Cant Make You Love me” but I got over that as soon as she brought out a couple covers. One of which was none other than the Talking Head’s Burning Down the House. This has been a favorite of mine, probably about the time I heard Once in a Lifetime in Down and Out in Beverly Hill. Amazing movie by the way, highly recommend.
Setlist: Unintended Consequence of Love, Need You Tonight (INXS cover), Everybody’s Crying Mercy (Mose Allison cover), Devil Got My Woman (Skip James cover), Something to Talk About, Angel From Montgomery (John Prine cover), Have a Heart, Nick of Time, Burning Down the House (Talking Heads cover)
Encore:Thing Called Love (John Hiatt cover)
After gathering my camera gear together and making our way through the bowels of the arena I arrive at my spot by the sound board. Before we dig into the music and all that I must cover a couple awesome facts JT shared during band member intros. First, the band’s bass player is a born and bred Minneapolis native. Not too shabby I must say Minnesota!. Second, and probably my most childishly giddy moment of the night, was learning Blue Lou from the original Blues Brothers band with Akroyd and Belushi is now playing with JT on saxophone and flute. For the record, I probably watched that film over 500x and can say Blue Lou never speaks in the film. Mind blown.
JT however, does speak, and sing. Quite well I might add. Now that is now shocker to some but I have to say. I know JT from way back and know his studio recordings well. But I didn’t know how he’d sound this far along in his career live. As I left the concert floor and made my way back upstairs to head to my seat though I could hear the same ole voice as ever coming from inside even without my ear plugs in. Songs like Mexico and Sweet Baby James sound like the day they were recorded, the same ole warm welcoming “come sit with me and talk friend” sound still ring though. Which on that note, Sweet Baby James was written for his brother’s son I learned. Lesson for those who may have wondered.
Through JT’s set I kept hoping, HOPING, to just hear the classic tune almost anyone I know who enjoys even a small amount of music has heard. A little over half through the set cam Fire and Rain, the crowd enter a state of nostalgia I can’t put into words. You can feel the energy in the arena shift and hear the soft sing along from many who wanted to join but also leave the words to JT himself. This was a crowd who was there for the memories and for the songs above all else. I saw only enough phones out at any time to fit on my two hands. It was yet another crowd which by being less present, made the experience so much more surreal.
Though I yet again was decades behind in seeing JT perform life, I am so glad I had the chance. Bonnie Raitt was a cherry on the night and I was glad to see she return with a very much warm welcome from the crowd who has loved her all these years. For those who may not be able to catch JT or Bonnie live soon, and especially those who don’t know their music. Please give them a listen. Join the millions who know them and love them already and see what you’ve been missing and enjoy. I certainly did and will.
Setlist: Carolina in My Mind,Country Road, Sunny Skies, Walking Man, First of May, Handy Man (Jimmy Jones cover), Steamroller, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, Up on the Roof (Carole King cover), Mexico, Something in the Way She Moves, Sweet Baby James, Fire and Rain, Shed a Little Light, Your Smiling Face, Shower the People,How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)(Marvin Gaye cover)
Encore: Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry cover), You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King cover), You Can Close Your Eyes