My Aunt took me to see James Taylor at Earl's Court on Thursday. He's a songwriting idol of mine. The stuff he's written over the last thirty years is a list to rival anybody's: Fire and Rain, Carolina in My Mind, Mexico, That's Why I'm Here, Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight and, as they say on adverts, many more. He's a legend.
But on Thursday he let me down. He played all those songs, but he played them as if he just wasn't interested in them anymore. Most of the time it sounded like he couldn't remember the tune. The man can clearly still sing when he wants to. His voice has always been distinctive rather than beautiful, but it didn't seem to have lost anything to time. It wasn't age that hampered his performance.
It wasn't the band either. He had some top musicians playing with him: Larry Goldings on Keys, Jimmy Johnson on Bass and best of all Harvey Mason on Drums. Those names probably mean nothing to you, but I nearly fell off my chair when Harvey Mason was introduced. He played with Herbie Hancock on all the Headhunters recordings - a hard-grooving seventies funk animal. Last week he was reduced to keeping time on 'You've Got a Friend', while James Taylor tried to salvage the evening.
What's wrong with him? Had he not rehearsed? Was his sound man ill? Or is he just sick of performing the same hits for the same people for the same ovation, no matter how he plays them?
On 'That's Why I'm Here' he sings:
"Fortune and fame, such a curious game. Perfect strangers call you by name, and pay good money to hear 'Fire and Rain' again and again and again - but that's why I'm here."
Great lyrics. Sad song.