Free tickets to see James Taylor last minute at a summer music festival with a close friend? Yes, please. My friend called breathlessly inviting me with a few hours to spare to get ready and get to the out of town venue. I had to opt out of a dinner party, but my husband said “go for it.” Not being incredibly impulsive , my heart was pounding with excitement. A concert! James Taylor! Whoo hoo.
We arrived to well signed parking lots, and hoofed it quickly to the concert venue, picked up our free tickets from the box office, and were beyond thrilled with the seats. About six rows up from the left side of the stage. Yes, we could see the back of everyone clearly, but were so close to the stage, we were pumped. Set one, James started on time, and played for over an hour and a half, mesmerizing the audience with his top hits, and some not as commonly heard. His singing, sense of humour , charm and wit coupled with his talented back- up singers, and band they rocked and rolled.
The demographic of the audience was as you would expect” aging hippies with graying hair, denim jackets, padding down the stairs with beer cans akimbo. Sitting close by were well dressed, sleekly coiffed gray hair and bejeweled fifty- somethings wearing designer gear and heels.
James engaged the audience in conversation, making the crowd of 10,000 feel intimate. At one point he addressed the enormous stadium saying, “this is exactly like my living room….and furnished the same too.” When audience members called out requests, he answered them, holding up a chalk board that was laying on the stage, to show everyone the line up of songs to be performed. He said that “Country Road “ will be the last number before an enforced 20 minute break , but when that intermission came, he didn’t leave the stage when everyone else did. He shook hands (both of mine – woooohooo!), signed autographs, spoke to people, and stayed there until the last person was gone, and his band members were back on the stage dragging him away from the edge.
James (can I call you James?) played with boundless energy, jumping with the guitar especially when he played the more bluesy songs like “Steamrollin’”. At one point, he invited audience members to dance in front of the stage. I was standing right at the edge, when his wife caught my eye and smiled at me. I was clapping, smiling and dancing and I caught the Jumbotron cameras lens on me and had a quick panic that I was showing up on the screen.
The backup singers were fabulous and when he introduced them, added that they were each a recording artist in their own right. Later in the second set, he introduced the keyboard/accordion player, the guitarists, and drummer . They were all incredibly enthusiastic and at intermission time, they all walked along the stage edge, shaking hands, connecting with the audience.
In the many conversations he had with the audience, James mentioned that a lot of the songs were about his father. He added that he had written about 150 songs, but really there were 15 versions of only 10 songs. He mentioned his first album at which point, someone in the audience held it up to which James said “yup, that’s the one.”
Even though this is the inaugural season of the Black Creek Summer Music Festival, it didn’t show a bit. Security and police were giving directions to parking, parking was FREE, yes , free which was wonderful as both my friend and I admitted to having little cash on us, so it could have been an embarrassing exit. The signage was endlessly helpful, and when we came out of the concert, there were line ups of school buses to shuttle us to our parking lots. Even the shuttle buses were detailed in the organization – signs on each bus “D/E” parking lots, signs as to where to line up for each bus. Very impressive!
We danced in the aisles, took tons of pictures; some even took video, and overall had a fabulous time. The staff and security were efficient and professional. They treated us with respect and, at the end, everyone left with high spirits. Being polite Canadians, we all filed out in an orderly fashion.
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done
more information, check out the fabulous line up of musical talent being held at the festival this summer: http://www.blackcreekfestival.com