I always wanted to go to a James Taylor concert. My husband and I were going to see him perform with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra several years ago, but the TSO went on strike and the concert was cancelled. When I found out a few years later that he was coming to the outdoor Molson Amphitheatre, I immediately booked tickets. The seats were expensive but lousy. Never mind. At least they were under the covered section. When the tickets arrived in the mail, I tucked them away in a safe place for four months.
I’m not a music buff. In fact, most of my musical exposure has been through others. When I was young, my older brother bought all the latest albums, and then it was my boyfriends who regaled me with their tunes and brought me to rock concerts. Eventually my husband became my music educator, and now my adolescent sons keep me abreast. Vicariously, I’ve been exposed to ACDC, The Sex Pistols, Van Morrison, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and my sons' current favourites: Against Me and Motorhead. Sweet Baby James is one of the few albums I bought for myself. I used to play it over and over and over, especially when I was studying for exams. If you came to my apartment in those days you got to listen to Cat Stevens, Carole King and Carly Simon…but mostly James Taylor.
I was never one to spend a fortune on rock concerts, unlike my friends who would break their bank books for tickets and then drive hundreds of miles to see their favourite bands. Why spend my hard-earned summer cash to attend a show in a hot, crowded, loud, smoky concert hall? Once I went to see The Cars at the Montreal Forum and I felt like I was the only person at the entire concert who didn’t really want to be there. It was like sitting through two hours of a foreign language film without subtitles. I pretended to get into it, screamed like a wild thing, and got on my boyfriend’s shoulders to show some enthusiasm; but truth be told, I would have rather been at home…listening to James Taylor.
Finally, it's the day of the JT concert and I’m so excited. But the weather is not pretty. The wind is howling, the rain is pounding, and the thunder is roaring. We crawl on the highway and make it to the venue with little time to spare. Umbrellas can’t even protect us from the whipping rain. Within seconds, my shoes are soaked and my pants are so wet you can wring them out. At the amphitheatre entrance, we line up like wet sheep at the gate. I rifle through my purse…where are the tickets? I take everything out. No tickets. I’m sure I put them in my purse before leaving the house. But I changed purses. Are they in the other one? My husband doesn’t say a word. We traipse back to the car as thunder and lightning strike overhead. “Fun date,” I say to my husband. He just smiles.
I find the tickets on the car floor between the seats. Yippee! We race back to the concert and by then even my hair is soaked (good thing I washed and blow-dried it before coming). We finally arrive to our wet seats and sit down. The rain is pounding so hard on the flimsy roof-top that you can barely hear the music. There must be holes in the ceiling because we’re still getting wet. Before long, the volume is turned up, the rain settles into a steady drizzle and I’m swaying to my favourite JT songs with a smile emerging on my face. I look around me and see a packed house. People are singing and dancing in their seats. Someone yells out, “I love you, James!” JT sits down on his stool, looks out at the audience and says, “Thanks.” Then he smiles and coyly says, “I love you too.”
When he starts to sing my all-time favourite, “You’ve Got a Friend,” my smile gets even wider. The woman sitting beside me obviously likes it too because she sings along—so loud that she drowns him out. But how can I ask her to be quiet? She looks so elated. When he belts out, “I’m Going to Carolina in my Mind,” everyone is hooping and hollering like they want to go with him. I’m just happy that I finally get to see and hear James Taylor in person…and this time, I don’t have to pretend to have fun.