James Taylor at the United Center in Chicago, IL

Chicago certainly got plenty of bang for their buck with a double-hitter show of James Taylor with special guest Jackson Browne, both on one lineup.

It was third time lucky as veteran singer-songwriters James Taylor and Jackson Browne were finally able to take to the road for their rescheduled joint tour which kicked off at Chicago’s United Center. It was a busy night for live music in the city with Lollapalooza and Journey also performing, but the draw of seeing these two iconic performers on one billing managed to pack the United Center to the rafters. 

Jackson Browne took to the stage for an hour-long set which captivated the crowd from the very first note. Taking to the stage with an impressive nine-piece band, it was Browne’s voice that was very much front and center, proving to be as strong and expressive as ever. Browne thanked everyone for holding onto their tickets despite the dates being rescheduled due to the lockdown, but it seemed everyone was just happy that it was able to go ahead. 

Toward the end of his set, Jackson stated, “I don’t open the show for just anybody,” and with that, James Taylor walked out onto the stage. The pair went on to perform Browne’s “The Pretender” together, much to the joy of the fans, even if Taylor did mix up the lyrics. The set was rounded out with “Running on Empty” which really jeered up the crowd even more (not that they needed it).

After an opening set like that, the crowd could have gone home happy, having seen a fantastic show. But there was more still to come. As the audience patiently waited for James Taylor, a screen was draped over the front of the stage, with a video projected onto it showing a variety of fans discussing how his music has helped them over the years and particularly last year. There were also clips of them performing snippets of his songs. 

As Taylor returned to the stage to begin his own set, he was greeted with the audience taking to their feet, cheering and clapping to show their appreciation for the legendary performer. He humbly stated, “We really didn’t know if anyone would show up.” There was little question of these fans turning up as they were chomping at the bit for it to begin. Taylor was clearly appreciative of both the crowd coming out and being given the opportunity to be back on the stage again. 

Taylor was joined on stage by an impressive eight-piece band and five vocalists (including his son, Henry Taylor). It was an incredible experience getting to see such a large-scale production after the long hiatus. The large screen at the back of the stage was put to full use and was almost like an extra member of the band in its own right as it really added to the ambiance of the evening. 

It’s so contagious when you go to see a show and the artist looks like they’re having just as much fun as you are. This was definitely one of those nights as Taylor looked to be in great spirits being back on the stage. He joked with the audience about how he knows they’ve begged for “Steamroller” to be removed from the setlist. He also joked how he learned everything in life from cartoons before performing “As Easy As Rolling Off A Log,” taken from the animated classic from 1938, Katnip Kollege. Throughout the song, the screen at the back of the stage alternated between video clips from the cartoon and live footage of the band.

Some of the biggest cheers of the evening came when James took a seat to perform the popular “Sweet Baby James” and “Fire and Rain,” two songs that also garnered the loudest singalongs. And just when you thought there couldn’t be anything else squeezed into the jam-packed night, Jackson Browne returned to the stage to perform The Eagles’ “Take It Easy,” which he actually wrote with Glenn Fry. 

As much as it was hard to wait so long for this show to happen, it was well worth the wait. It was every bit as great as the fans had hoped it would be, and then some. What a way to kick off a tour!

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About Kirstine Walton 380 Articles
Kirstine moved from the UK to Chicago in 2011, and has fallen in love with the city and its music scene. She enjoys combining her two biggest passions – music and photography. If there is a band with a guitar playing, chances are she’ll be there…camera in hand. Kirstine went to her first live concert at 7 years old, and hasn’t looked back since!