Look up “All-Star Band” in the dictionary of live music and the first entry you’ll find is Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, the former Beatle’s perpetually touring supergroup with a rotating cast of veteran pop stars taking turns covering their own hits. James Taylor & His All-Star Band, despite their name, could hardly be more different.
The iconic ’70s singer-songwriter, who happens to have been the first non-Brit signing to The Beatles’ Apple Records label, has assembled an eight-piece outfit that includes guitarist Michael Landau, bassist Jimmy Johnson, singer Arnold McCuller and drummer Steve Gadd, all session musicians who are best known to those who read the fine print on album covers. As such, they know how to lay back and let Taylor’s soothing baritone, sensitive ballads, and sophisticated guitar-playing take center stage.
On their current tour, Taylor and his band have been performing two sets, plus encore, that go heavy on early hits like “Fire and Rain,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Sweet Baby James,” “Mexico” and “Carolina in My Mind.” They’ve also been doing more recent material, of course, as well as renditions of Carole King’s “Up on the Roof,” Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” and Johnny “Scat” Davis’ “As Easy as Rolling Off a Log,” which Taylor covered on his pandemic-era American Standard album. By all accounts, Taylor’s performances still live up to his legacy, forging an emotional connection with audiences that now span generations, which is no small feat.