Singer/songwriters don’t usually find themselves in stadiums, but given James Taylor’s status as one of the world’s finest and most appreciated at the craft, he managed to hold all of Wrigley Field in rapt attention for almost two hours in direct competition with a Chicago Cubs away game. Though the Boston native is a lifelong Red Sox fan, he appeared sincere when congratulating the World Series champs and had no qualms about tossing on a hat when he first walked out to introduce opener Bonnie Raitt.
“Your Smiling Face” also illustrated its title when projections of beaming fans flashed on the jumbotrons, though it was an tribute to Chuck Berry via “Johnny B. Goode” alongside Raitt that kicked up the most dust prior to Taylor’s lump-in-throat take on Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend.”
While the headliner did address baseball one more time in the newer selection “Angels Of Fenway” off his latest album “Before This World,” Taylor usually stuck to more personal themes of love, life-affirmations, his extensive travels and making the ordinary sound incredible. And he sure had plenty of observations to unload from debuting on The Beatles’ Apple Records in 1968 through more than 100 million album sales, whether it be the massive singles such as “Carolina In My Mind” and “Country Road” or less familiar but no less thought-provoking tales “Never Die Young” and “First Of May.”
The front half of the evening may have been characterized by an extremely easygoing and unhurried approach, but the pace gradually escalated with some spicy horn splashes during “Mexico” and the bluesy elements that defined “Steamroller.” Even with their softer tones, “Sweet Baby James” and “Fire And Rain” kept everyone wrapped snuggly in Taylor’s articulate abilities, while “Shed A Little Light” possessed a hopeful, gospel-like glow as it overflowed with glorious harmonies.
“Shower The People” brought additional joy, but the spotlight belonged to background singer Arnold McCuller (just one of the many exceptional talents from this All-Star Band). “Your Smiling Face” also illustrated its title when projections of beaming fans flashed on the jumbotrons, though it was an tribute to Chuck Berry via “Johnny B. Goode” alongside Raitt that kicked up the most dust prior to Taylor’s lump-in-throat take on Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend.”
In addition to appearing in the encore, Raitt and her equally crisp band turned in about an hour addressing today’s roots rockin’ “Unintended Consequence Of Love” back to the sassy “Something To Talk About” and the jazzy, wisdom-filled morsel “Nick Of Time” (accompanied by McCuller, who sang on the original session). Despite skipping out on the signature “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” at least she gave yet another beautiful interpretation of John Prine’s “Angel Of Montgomery” and the blustery “Thing Called Love” with Taylor on vocals and acoustic guitar, who turned out to be a seamless collaborator and true friend indeed.
Upcoming concert highlights at Wrigley Field include Billy Joel (Aug. 11); Florida Georgia Line with Backstreet Boys, Nelly and Chris Lane (Aug. 12); Green Day (Aug. 24); Lady Gaga (Aug. 25) and Zac Brown Band (Aug. 26). For additional details, visit http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/ballpark/ and LiveNation.com.