James Taylor is a modest guy, unstarry enough to shuffle out on stage before his headline set to introduce special guest Bonnie Raitt, mindful of the added value, kudos and, frankly, balls this esteemed singer/guitarist brought to the bill.
James Taylor & Bonnie Raitt, Hydro, Glasgow ***
Raitt talked about working her ire out on her guitar but her style is more of a controlled explosion. She simmered through sultry versions of INXS’ Need You Tonight and Mose Allison’s Everybody’s Crying Mercy, with some deliciously loose jazzy playing from her pianist Jon Cleary. But a spellbinding solo version of John Prine’s Angel from Montgomery was the highlight of a set rounded off by a chummy duet with Taylor on John Hiatt’s Thing Called Love.
Taylor is as wry and piquant in person as his music is cosy and comforting. Like Raitt, he employed a slick band of players to convey the soothing flavours of Carolina In My Mind and Country Road but looked a bit apologetic wrangling his guitar on the blues indulgence of Steamroller.
As beautiful as the group harmonies were on Shed A Little Light, Taylor’s audience responded most strongly to the solo troubadour terrain of Something In the Way She Moves (George Harrison was so impressed he nicked the lyric), the “cowboy lullaby” Sweet Baby James and Fire and Rain.
Backing vocalist Arnold McCuller added his customary soul injection to Shower the People, Raitt returned for a slightly cheesy Chuck Berry tribute and a close harmony Close Your Eyes and a convivial evening was shared by all.