I grew up in a house that was never quiet. The noise wasn’t coming from kids yelling or loud TVs (though I’m sure my parents would’ve said differently at the time)—no, the constant noise was music. I come from a family who loves music. I mean, really, truly, loves music. My father would be drumming along to James Taylor while my mom was dancing to Linda Ronstadt in the kitchen. My brother strumming his guitar playing Ozzy Osborne’s Crazy Train while I listened to Sarah McLachlan on my Walkman, desperately wishing I could go to Lilith Fair (an aside—LADIES, let’s bring it back!) We never told one another to turn it down, pausing our own music to make room for others’, and instead allowed the sounds to blend and merge, creating a new sound all their own. In a way, we were creating our own version of Americana.
Now residing in our own homes, the Anderson Americana may not still carryon, but our shared love for it hasn’t faltered. And on July 2, 2023, my dad, brother, and I did something we’ve never done together—we went to a concert together. The show that finally got us all together? James Taylor and his All-Star band at the Mann in Philadelphia. Yeah, you could say we went from zero to 100.
It almost feels silly to try and review the show. After all, it’s James Taylor. To say that the man knows how to put on a show would be an understatement. Yes, he played the hits, and even held up an oversized, handwritten set list to let the audience know what was coming. Yes, he can still play the guitar with an ease that is humbling to a novice player such as myself. And yes, his charisma on stage has the ability to make you forget about the heat and be encapsulated by what’s happening on stage. But last night at the Mann, there was more—there was the draw of family.
On stage last night with James and his incredible band was his son, Henry, who has joined the tour on backup vocals. Let’s just say the musical gene clearly runs strong in the Taylor family. As I looked over at my own family, clapping along and just as mesmerized as I was, a warmth rushed over me. Taylor’s music has surrounded me my entire life, from bopping along to Mexico on car rides, to Shower the People backing a video my dad made of my childhood, to hearing The Water is Wide at my mom’s funeral. It’s not just about the music, it’s about the common and shared experience of music and the memories tied to the tracks. It’s listening to a song you’ve heard for as long as you can remember, with the people who have known you for just as long. Yes, I’ve had amazing solo experiences at shows, bouncing around to Maggie Rogers or getting in the feels with Bon Iver, but being with family, whether chosen or blood, just hits different. It feels like love.
And I guess being in the presence of a true legend like James Taylor helps, too.
Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel
Things are gonna be much better
If you only will