James Taylor at Plymouth Pavilions. 05th September 2014.

The James Taylor Concert at Plymouth Pavilions last Friday night (05th September 2014) was a delight.

We arrived in good time to have a drink and meet up with some friends as we milled with the growing crowd in the bar – where there was no seating and us paying customers were being managed and corralled by grim faced, muscled stewards like so many cattle. We had what we initially thought were good seats; we had no choice during the booking process – you got what they gave you, and were about two thirds up the first tier in Row KK, very slightly stage right as you faced it.

The man himself was effortlessly charming, natural, self effacing and genuinely modest. His stage presence was all those things rolled in to one so the concert seemed like a personal one-to-one interview and the balance of songs was, in my opinion, well thought out and meticulously planned. There were new songs interspersed with many of the old favourites all performed with precision and grace and such innate ease. I was disappointed though by the sound. In my opinion and also possibly because of our position in the hall, the sound in the first set especially was a tad disappointing with Mr T. being drowned out both by the band and also by the backing vocalists so much so that in full flow the overall sound was mashed and indistinct. More separation would have helped I thought though on speaking to our friends during the break they, in their seats nearer to the stage, reported that they had no such problems with the overall sound. A musician friend and also a man who knows his way around a recording studio had this to say: Plymouth Pavilions is always tricky from a sound perspective. ‘Mashed and indistinct’ describes my experience there very well and overall has put me off booking tickets for shows. The venue wasn’t designed for great acoustics and even the finest touring P.A.s can’t overcome the deficiencies in the building’s construction. Everything I’ve heard there has been woolly, lacking clarity and separation. Great to hear you enjoyed JT in spite of the sound and annoying neighbours.

The band were good, tight, displaying an intelligent grasp of interplay in harmonics and chord inversions. It was clear they all knew very well what they were doing and how to do it, they were well rehearsed and enjoying themselves too and the whole evening was a study in how to present a laid-back, feel-good vibe (I know – but factor in the fact that I lived through the 60s musical revolution and hippy culture so…) There were many high points and memorable moments but, for me, the best was when he, J.T. sat to perform ‘Fire & Rain’, for it wasn’t only sung; it was ‘delivered’ in all its sad sincerity. The stark content of emotion in those lyrics was brought to life by his simple, uncluttered and telling performance. Standing ovations were de rigueur, the encores were ‘spontaneous’ with James acting as though they hadn’t expected them, good easy fun but better was to come. After a full-on night of performing, as the crowds shuffled their painfully slow trudge to the exits James came back out to sign tickets, shake hands have photos taken with punters just like he was any old everyday musician and not the internationally respected artist we all know and love. A very charming, genuinely humble man.

My only other disappointment was caused by the fact that we, my lovely missus Chrissie and I, had the bad luck to be seated right next to a woman who was completely off her face and, again in my own opinion, certifiably insane. She spent much of the concert throwing herself against the seat backs thereby affecting the whole set of chairs all buckled together as they are, so we all rocked back and forth to her crazy rhythms. She was waving her arms like she was actually ablaze, screeching as she flapped, yes flapped, her legs open and shut. Her sense of timing was notable by its sheer absence as she clapped along inappropriately and out of step with everyone else and this grew more apparent as she replenished the diminishing fluids levels in her sweating body with copious swigs from her back-up rations resource i.e. the clear liquid contents of a large unlabelled plastic drinks bottle. She and her partner had clearly come prepared and did not have to queue for drinks at the bar during the 20 minute interval. People beside and behind us offered their condolences as they witnessed this one woman maelstrom become totally and physically involved with ‘Steam-Roller Blues’. I wanted to punch her (kindly) to sleep and give her peace but Chrissie wouldn’t hear of it. She bore the onslaught, which lasted more or less the whole length of the concert, with a patience and fortitude that simply amazed me. There was a moment of savage pleasure for me at least when she stood to screech her approval at the end of a song then forgot that when you stand your seat defaults to its ‘up’ position.

When her ample arse smacked heavily on the floor and she became trapped with her knees jammed against the back of the seat in front of her, I exulted! For the briefest of moments I believed there might indeed be a God after all!

This delight was savoured inwardly though because no noise I made, such as shouting, (nay, fecken roaring), ‘Serves you f*cking right!’ would have penetrated her selfishly blurred and fogged consciousness. She was that much of a twat! It was though, an undoubted moment of unforgettable extra joy for me as her partner manfully tried to assist her out of her predicament. As they fought together to return her back to a sitting position it soon became clear that he too was also somewhat ‘tired and emotional’ and the synchronised manoeuvres required to manipulate her and simultaneously fight to keep the spring loaded seat in the ‘down’ position proved almost insurmountable. So I happily witnessed her struggle to maintain her dignity as her track suit type trousers caught on some sharp edge and her undergarments were suddenly on public display looking, to me, to be none too fresh.

I’m happy to report too that the second set sound was a lot better and that overall we both had a lovely night and enjoyed it all immensely no matter the few ‘disappointments’ we had to bear.

Mic McCreadie.

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