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James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt Open The Ford Center In Style In Frisco, Texas 7/31/17

Everyone anticipated logistics problems as this was the fist concert held at the new Ford Center In Frisco. There were a couple of slowdowns, but most of the bugs had been worked out well in advance. The beautiful venue filled up with 12,000 music fans wanting to hear two superstars light up the arena.

It was an older crowd, meaning the only selfies were by young escorts with much older gentlemen in the first few rows. Most of the crowd was on date night or an anniversary present from one spouse to the other.

In a surprise to the audience, James Taylor walked onstage by himself and welcomed everyone to The 2017 World Tour and to the new venue. He was heartfelt in his thanks and very much sincere to be able to introduce an opening act like the talented Bonnie Raitt.

Bonnie came out with her band and stated, “Here’s our traveling musicians and here’s a new song of mine.” The red-haired blues artist launched into “Unintended Consequence Of Love” with its soulful blues beat. Mike Finnigan on keys added a bit of magic to the potential hit song.

Raitt then put a voodoo beat on “Need You Tonight” by INXS. Most people didn’t figure out the song until the familiar refrain and then sang along. George Marinelli on guitar showcased his talent as he expertly fingered the fret. Borrowing a song from her good friend, she played Taylor’s “Rainy Day Man.” Being a JT song, it was beautifully crafted and told a complete story in a few verses.

“Spit Of Love” was about when love wasn’t so pretty and most of the crowd nostalgically recollected a time in their own lives when a love went wrong. The rocking blues tempo expressed the feeling of getting over that bad time in your life, punctuated by Raitt’s solo and an “Oomph” at the end for extra effect. Bonnie said it was satisfying to write about exes and played the blues on “Love Me Like A Man” to express her emotions. She was on acoustic guitar and she shared the stage with only bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson to set the mood.

From Nick Of Time, her best-selling album, she played the laid-back “Have A Heart” with its hard blues ending. In memory of the late Steve Bruton, the opening notes of “Something To Talk About” raised the energy level of the crowd. It received a huge ovation as it sounded as fresh as when it came out.

Arnold McCuller from Taylor’s band came out to add some Philly Soul with Bonnie on “Nick Of Time.” She said she wrote it when she was nervous about turning 40, which made most of the crowd feel a little older. Raitt slowed down the tempo a bit for a cover of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery.” The outstanding classic song garnered a well-earned ovation.

Raitt gave a blues beat to “Burning Down The House” by the Talking Heads. Some of the older fans moved and grooved and acted like they were getting away with something naughty by dancing to New Wave music.

Bonnie thanked the crowd, then brought out Taylor to sing a duet on “Thing Called Love.” The audience was ecstatic and loved every second of this phenomenal pairing of contrasting voices before giving them a heartfelt standing ovation.

 

 

As the lights dimmed, the audience made their ways to their seats as a video played about the life of James Taylor. He then walked out to screams and whistles in appreciation for his musical genius. Taylor’s first greatest hit of the evening was the well-written “Caroline On My Mind.” The fans soaked it in as the lyrics seemed to effect everyone on some emotional level.

A violin intro by Andrea Zonn preceded a drum influenced “Country Road.” as Steve Gadd laid down the thumping beat for the song. The crowd “Oohed” and “Aahed” at the photos of JT’s dog, the inspiration for “Sunny Skies.” On “Never Die Young,” Taylor said he should know, since he wrote it, but he was still trying to figure out the meaning of it. Guitarist extraordinaire Mike Landau served up an energetic solo that showed why he is one of the best in the business.

An uptempo Latin beat made “First Of May” a crowd favorite. A snowfall on the video screen looked soothing on the hot summer day, and the words of “Montana” fit it perfectly. The picturesque “Mexico” featured the horn section of Walt Fowler and Lou Marini, as well as uplifting percussion by the talented Luis Conte.

The band had fun with the dirty blues version of “Steamroller,” a song JT said meant absolutely nothing and took longer to sing it than it did to write it. The ending jam earned them a huge ovation as did the penetrating lyrics and intimate sax on “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.”

Much of Taylor’s music is about family, including “Jump Up Behind Me,” a song inspired by his dad picking him up in the family station wagon. James followed that with an interesting story about playing “Something In The Way She Moves” for George Harrison and Paul McCartney. It led to him being signed as the first non-British artist on their new Apple Records and a lifelong friendship with Harrison.

Learning about the meanings behind his songs is always a big part of a JT concert and the five-time Grammy Award winner captivated the crowd with the story about “Sweet Baby James.” It was for his brother’s first child, the first grandson in the family, and James wrote it as a lullaby for the baby. He said the hardest part was working the word “buckaroo” into the lyrics.

The audience sang every word of the emotional “Fire And Rain.” After so many years of singing it, Taylor still put every ounce of his soul into it as it had such a deep meaning to him. The standing ovation was genuine and well-earned.

The backup singers joined James out front for the exquisite harmony on “Shed A Little Light.” When the band picked up the tempo, JT did a quasi-dance that didn’t help dispel any notions that old white guys can’t dance. Couples danced and singles swayed for “Shower The People.” The classic hit brought a long and loud round of applause. The crowd kept singing the familiar “Your Smiling Face” amid video shots of people in the audience smiling as well as singing.

An extended version of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” was an excellent way to finish the set. Fans sang every word of the song they hear on classic rock stations. Fireworks on the screen and a rowdy sax made JT jump around during the jam session that lasted several minutes. He had fun doing it and thanked the fans before leaving the stage.

The ovation brought them back to the stage with Raitt and they talked about recently losing Chuck Berry, the Father of Rock and Roll. Bonnie started their rocking version of “Johnny B. Goode” and the exceptional slide guitarist showcased her talents once again. Asking if he could sing one more, the crowd cheered loudly, then sang softly to give reverence to “You’ve Got A Friend.” The touching Carole King song was one of the many highlights of the night.

JT brought out another stool for Raitt as they used their voices to form an engaging harmony on “You Can Close Your Eyes.” The close friends showed a chemistry on the stage and in the way their voices meshed. Sadly, it was time to end the show, but not before the loyal fans showered them with applause, love and appreciation.

Taylor hung around to talk to fans and take pictures with them. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has always been very approachable and his common-man personality endears himself to fans.

His music is the reason he has sold over 100 million albums as his lyrics resonate with everyday situations in life. For all of these reasons, the parents of Taylor Swift were inspired to name their daughter after him.

The 2017 World Tour continues until September 16th. Catch it in an arena near you to hear a night of classic music that fills your soul.

Joe Guzman of Infrared Magazine was on hand to record the event.

 

David Simers
David is a music writer for classic rock, country and blues. He writes concert reviews, album reviews and conducts interviews.
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