Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

James Taylor remains a musical marvel

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Musician James Taylor has still got it. Photo / Getty
Musician James Taylor has still got it. Photo / Getty

Taylor, who continues his New Zealand tour in Napier on Sunday night, wowed a capacity crowd at Vector Arena on Saturday.

Indeed, a shout from the audience summed it up best midway through his impressive show, which stretched for more than two hours.

"You've still got it James", yelled an excited fan from the back of the arena, as Taylor completed a beautiful version of Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.

That's the point with Taylor. While some legendary musicians struggle to replicate their deeds of decades past, Taylor's famous voice remains as pure as ever.

Indeed, if you closed your eyes last night you could imagine you were back in 1968, when Taylor was first signed to Apple records, and sharing a studio with the likes of George Harrison and Paul McCartney.

Musicians James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett perform in New York City in December last year. Photo / Getty
Musicians James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett perform in New York City in December last year. Photo / Getty

A lot has happened since then - including countless hits and more than 100 million albums sold - but Taylor remains as versatile and talented as ever.

Saturday night was the first gig of his 2017 tour, and Taylor was in fine form.

Taylor enjoys telling stories about particular songs and demonstrated a keen sense of humour.

"We are going to play some new tunes," said Taylor. "Not that many and we'll get it over quick - but they sound just like the old ones."

The new songs - from 2015's Before This World - his first album of new material in 13 years, were well received, particularly an emotional rendition of You and I, to close the concert.

But it was the old classics that the crowd had come to see, and Taylor didn't disappoint. There was a rock twist added to Country Road, a high energy version of Mexico and the punters jumped to their feet for How Sweet it is.

Portrait of American folk rock musician James Taylor. Photo / Getty
Portrait of American folk rock musician James Taylor. Photo / Getty

Fire and Rain got one of the biggest ovations, while You've Got a Friend had everyone singing along.

Taylor seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. The 68-year-old appeared at the front of the stage during the intermission, taking photos and signing autographs for delighted fans.

He also had great rapport with his all-star band, more than happy to share the limelight with the large ensemble of talented musicians around him.

The current tour is Taylor's first appearance in New Zealand in seven years, but based on Saturday night, his next visit can't come soon enough.

If you want to see James Taylor's next New Zealand show, he will be playing at Church Road Winery in Napier this evening.

- NZ Herald

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