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"JT, you've still got it," yelled an audience member at the Siegel Center, where folk singer and songwriter James Taylor played for over an hour and a half last Saturday. A five-time Grammy Award winner, Taylor teamed up with Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and the Genworth Foundation to bring a concert to Richmond that benefited 10 local children's charities.
Catering to the round dining tables and bleachers full of baby boomers, Taylor, now past middle age, crowed like he was still 25 (and moved like he was 30-ish). The warm baritone voice that earned him so much fame in his 40-year career has stood the test of time. Even a 20-year-old newbie to the Taylor legend could be impressed by his charm and tunes (although few were in the audience).
Starting off with a solo rendition of "Something in the Way She Moves," he had a firm grasp on what the audience wanted -- the old hits with a little banter and a lot of audience participation.
For most songs he was accompanied by a full band, including two back-up vocalists, drums, guitar and bass. The group played old favorites, with Taylor adding a back story to songs like "Sweet Baby James," telling the audience how he drove through Virginia writing the cowboy lullaby for his newborn nephew.
"Walking Man," "Country Road" and "Carolina on my Mind" were among the audience favorites, but it was "Mexico" that really got the audience rocking and kept the show going. In several songs Taylor scatted like he was sitting on a porch in Alabama: "D-ba-de-ba-de-de-de-de-de-de." The audience hooted and hollered for more.
Although frequently interrupted in between songs by audience members yelling for autographs and song requests, Taylor just laughed and responded with a quick response.
"That one's on the list," he said while holding up the set list. "I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget." The audience ate it up.
In the last half hour, he invited people to the front to dance, and more than a dozen eager fans took him up on the offer.
After his last song, "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)," garnered a standing ovation, the crowd refused to disperse until he returned to play an encore with three more songs. He ended the performance with "You Can Close Your Eyes."
This was the third annual Genworth Children's Classic Advantage, and proceeds of more than $500,000 will benefit charities like ART 180, Big Brothers and Sisters Services, Stop Child Abuse Now and Comfort Zone Camp.