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James Taylor & Jackson Browne : A Genius Mellow Rock Double Bill

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Baby Boomers Delight In Pairing Of Iconic Singer Songwriters at North Charleston Coliseum

By: Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer

Soft rock with a southern California twist was on full display Wednesday (Nov 17th) night at the North Charleston Coliseum, as two iconic singer songwriters of the baby boomer generation offered up a cornucopia of their hits. James Taylor and Jackson Browne essentially wrote the soundtrack to the 1970’s & 80’s, and together they thoroughly entertained 7000 plus fans at the coliseum, mostly made up of attendees over 50.

While each performer seasoned their respective sets with a few lesser known songs, Taylor and Browne did not disappoint concert goers, with familiar favorites fans have been singing for over 40 years. Although both artists are 73 and noted tunesmiths, they cut their musical teeth on different coasts, with Taylor emerging from the folk rock coffee house scene in New York, and Browne finding his way forward during the late 1960’s LA country rock scene, the same environment that gave us Linda Ronstadt, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and The Eagles.

Browne who has had fewer Top 40 hits opened the show with the more recognizable ‘Somebody’s Baby’, before sending up several cuts from his latest album ‘Downhill From Everywhere’ (2021), including ‘Still Looking For Something’, ‘The Dreamer’ and the title track. He weaved in a few songs diehards may have recognized such as ‘Fountain of Sorrow’ and ‘The Long Way Around’ from 1974 & 2014 respectively. Browne waxed poetic on ‘Call It a Loan’ the ultimate breakup song from his 1980 album ‘Hold Out’.

For those in the crowd who may have only remembered Browne’s trio of classic rock radio staples, he closed out his hour on stage in succession with ‘Doctor My Eyes’, ‘The Pretender’, and ‘Runnin’ On Empty’. Concert goers were on their feet and singing along to every note, and were equally thrilled when Taylor joined Browne on stage during the final two numbers, which easily set the tone for the more mellow rock yet to come.

James Taylor may very well be the poet laureate for the post WWII generation. When baby boomers were heading off to college, getting married, having babies, or worse worrying about Vietnam, Taylor was a calm voice amid all the uncertainty. His songs were a welcome relief coming from AM radio stations. Five decades later he still commands the audience like he did in his youth, and surprisingly his voice has not lost much of its fervor.

After Taylor exchanged pleasantries with the crowd, thanking fans for following him on his musical journey he went right into ‘Country Road’ a Top 40 hit from 1971, and a beautiful song from essentialy his breakthrough album ‘Sweet Baby James’. With that Taylor established a mellow rock mood that he wouldn’t deviate from for the next 90 minutes.

Easily familiar melodies would follow including ‘Copperline’, ‘Mexico’, ‘Steamroller’, ‘Sweet Baby James’, and ‘Fire & Rain’, a song audiences can’t help but sing along too. Although Taylor spent his formative years in the Tarheel state, whenever he sends up ‘Carolina On My Mind’ it’s hard to believe he’s not singing personally to fans right here in Charleston. ‘Shower the People’ and ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)’ by Marvin Gaye continued the musical love fest between Taylor and the crowd.

His four song encore ‘Shed a Little Light’ (pun intended) on a man who has grown old gracefully and has welcomed millions of fans into arenas around the country. It’s only fitting that Browne would rejoin Taylor on stage for ‘Take It Easy’ a song Jackson co-wrote in 1972 with late Eagles co-founder and musician Glenn Frey. Browne would remain on stage for the follow up number.

Taylor closed out his show with his famous remake of Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got a Friend’, and judging by the audience reply, it appears James does have many friends here in the low country. His final number was equally moving, as his son Henry joined him front and center for ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’, a 1971 ditty fittingly described as a lullaby, and was the B-side to ‘You’ve Got A Friend’.

While both artists emerged during the early 1970’s their music and careers took different paths, and their stage presence reflects that. Jackson often lets his music speak for itself, although he is congenial, his stage show is more organic.

On the other hand Taylor is much more engaging, allowing witty back stories to introduce each song. His stage show is equal parts music and imagery, fully utilizing the big screen backdrop, whether showcasing photos of his family, 1950’s cartoons, or Carolina landscapes (a must for ‘Carolina On My Mind’). Reflections on his childhood and his friendship with John Belushi were touching, as were his humorous evolutionary tale of Richard Nixon. Taylor definitely knows how to work a crowd, and his comedic skills are on par with his songwriting ability .

James Taylor and Jackson Browne have become a part of Americana and are worthy of their Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductions. Pairing the two singer songwriters is nothing short of genius, and allows concert goers a double bang for their buck. With the concert tour scheduled to run through summer of 2022, this is a must see show for baby boomers, soft rock lovers, and younger types who can appreciate great musicianship.

Although both appear to be healthy and in good shape, at 73 years old neither is as mobile as they were in their heyday. But make no mistake their music and their messages have been moving fans for over five decades, and at this juncture in their careers that is enough to keep baby boomers and younger fans coming out. Long live the story tellers of rock n’ roll.

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