James Taylor at Ravinia
Some kids grew up on the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. For me, it was James Taylor every step of the way—blasting over our backyard speakers while I jazzercised next to the pool, lulling me to sleep on family road trips, energizing the crowd at my sister's wedding. Every time he played a concert in a two-hour driving radius of San Diego, my family attended.
It's been at least twelve years since I last saw him perform, and in many ways, his performance at Ravinia this past Friday was just like old times. The first set was chock full of classics like "Sweet Baby James" and "That's Why I'm Here" that allowed Taylor to show off his smooth voice while nearly everyone in the audience sang along. He even hammed up a few numbers, growling and lisping on "Steamroller" and shining a light on a row of plastic ducks to the side of the stage during the my ducks are all in a row line of "Sun on the Moon."
Just as thankful as the crowd was to see a sixtysomething-year-old Taylor giving Ravinia concertgoers his all, so was Taylor appreciative of his backup band. With every new player Taylor gave a warm and humbled introduction. The talented bunch, guys like sax player Lou Marini and guitarist Dean Parks, added new layers and variations to the songs Taylor has played for so many years and backed him up in lively covers of "How Sweet It Is" and "The Twist" that actually got the crowd up on its feet and dancing in the tightly packed rows of seats. The night ended aptly with a lullaby and Taylor reminding everyone to get home safely.