Review: James Taylor with special guest Bonnie Raitt at the Manchester Arena

Expecting to see Bonnie Raitt perform a few numbers with James Taylor, it was a pleasant surprise to see her perform 11 numbers with her own band, with a little help from Arnold McCuller (James Taylor Band) in 'The Nick of Time'.

Bonnie wasted no time in showing why she has been rated amongst the top 100 guitarists and singers in the world by opening with an explosive version of ‘Unintended Consequence of Love‘ from her 2016 Dig in Deep album. She went straight into her version and tribute to INXS with ‘Need You Tonight‘ – every bit as good as the original worldwide hit.

Finger slide guitar playing artistry was demonstrated throughout the whole 11 tracks Bonnie performed, along with her finger picking skills and haunting voice on the ballad ‘Angel from Montgomery‘. As a tribute to Chuck Berry her band blasted out a version of ‘I Believe I’m in Love With You’, originally performed by The Thunderbirds, at the end of which she shouted; “I love being out of breath”.

Her last track of the night, (we thought) was ‘This Thing Called Love‘ which got the whole audience up especially as she brought on James Taylor to join her on guitar and vocals. James and Bonnie showed off their skills on the electric guitar, again, with James Taylor laying his guitar down at the end indicating it needed a rest! As Bonnie left the stage with James she told him “we really greased them up for you didn’t we” and “you’re one fine side of bacon”. The interval to reset the stage was needed, as was a cold beer.

James came on to a simple stage set with a Carolina sunset landscape projected onto a large-scale screen and an array of large spots at the back, illuminating a honey gold colour onto the set. The colour set the mood for his opening number ‘Carolina in My Mind‘ where James dressed in his familiar jacket, jeans and flat cap (reversed for the rockier numbers!), sitting on a wooden stool and making it look so easy to make such fine music.

His band Michael Landlu (guitar), Lou Marini (Sax, Flute, Clarinet), Michito Sanchez (percussion), Kevin Hays (Keyboards) and Steve Gadd (drums) were joined by the other band members Kate Markowitz (vocals), Arnold McCuller (vocals) and Andrea Zonn (vocal and violin) for the second number ‘Country Road‘. It began with a medley of reels played by Andrea before James broke into the guitar picking intro so familiar to fans, who were now warming up and could be heard singing along.

Hit after hit of his 21-number set were greeted with elation by the crowd, with Taylor starting each song with an anecdote to where and why it was written, Sweet Baby James was a gift to his brothers first son and how he wrote it in his old Cortina on the way back to see his family in Carolina going back to America after being signed by Apple Records. He auditioned ‘Something in the Way She Moves‘ to Paul McCartney and George Harrison and was Apple’s first signing.

The crowd were on their feet when we got to hear ‘Mexico‘ with the distinctive Samba beat and colourful images of Mexico and its people being projected on the screen. By the time he got to his final number ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)‘ the audience were singing every line with him.

His Encore of Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode‘ rocked the audience up another notch as Bonnie Raitt joined him on stage vying for rock guitar supremacy between them; As he left stage he asked the mixing deck if he had “time for one more” the thumbs up was treated with a loud cheer of appreciation.

He came back to sing Carol King’s ‘You’ve Got a Friend‘, alone on his stool with his acoustic guitar. The lights were switched on and the crowd were filmed and projected onto the screen, everyone was singing every word with smiles on their faces. As one last treat he ended the night with a duo with Bonnie singing the romantic ballad ‘You Can Close Your Eyes‘ from his 1971 3rd album ‘Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon’.

Everyone left the MEN feeling moved, happy and felt like I had a new friend in James Taylor. Come back soon James or as Bonnie would say “Y’all come back now, you hear?”.

BONNIE RAITT SETLIST
Unintended Consequence of Love
Need You Tonight (INXS cover)
Everybody’s Crying Mercy (Mose Allison cover)
Devil Got My Woman (Skip James cover)
Have a Heart
Something To Talk About
Nick of Time (with Arnold McCuller)
I Believe I’m in Love With You (The Fabulous Thunderbirds cover)
Angel From Montgomery (John Prine cover)
Medley: ??? / Love Sneakin’ Up On You
Thing Called Love (John Hiatt cover) (with James Taylor)

JAMES TAYLOR SETLIST
Carolina in My Mind
Fiddle Drum – Country Road
Sunny Skies
Walking Man
First of May
Up on the Roof (Carole King cover)
Steamroller
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
Handy Man (Jimmy Jones cover)
Mexico
Something in the Way She Moves
Sweet Baby James
Fire and Rain
Shed a Little Light
Your Smiling Face
Shower the People
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You) (Marvin Gaye cover)

ENCORE
Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry cover)
You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King cover)
You Can Close Your Eyes (with Bonnie Raitt)

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