For a man whose career began by conveying extreme internal anguish to the masses, James Taylor seems cheery these days. At his Pacific Amphitheatre show Saturday, he engaged the audience with all sorts of good-natured quips and antics, despite a collection of tunes that were often far from upbeat.
Taylor was a yuppie long before the word was invented: a rich white kid whose every lyric celebrated self and sensitivity with capital S's. Judging by the respectful, attentive adulation he received from the visibly up-scale crowd at the amphitheater, Taylor is now an icon among modern-day yuppies--perhaps because his music shares some of the values attributed to up-scale life styles.
Taylor pays fierce attention to the quality of his music--playing precise, pretty acoustic guitar while supported by a tightly arranged band that includes two backup singers (Arnold McCuller and the ever-popular Rosemary Butler, formerly of Jackson Browne's band). Also among the ranks were a lap steel guitar player (Danny Dugmore) as well as age-old Taylor sideman Leland Sklar, guitarist Bob Mann, drummer Carlos Vega and keyboard player-producer Don Guralnick.
But Taylor's songs, once celebrated for their sensitivity, now sound almost wimpy, not to mention dated. Tune after tune about loneliness and love, interspersed with imagery of leaves falling and rainbows ending, wore as thin as Taylor's hairline long before the end of the first set.