Canal Street Online Manchester

James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt live in Manchester

Depending on who you speak to, people seem to either love or hate Manchester Arena. Dissenters tend to point to its vast size and the lack of intimacy at concerts, whilst most others love it for that very same reason.

There is no question however, that over the last twenty plus years, the venue has encouraged some of the planet’s greatest performers to play the city. Depending on who they are, they have used its size and scale to their advantage.

The gig tonight merged these two extremes beautifully, as Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor are both able to effortlessly create an intimacy (even in a 16k seater stadium) one moment and then have us rocking in the aisles the next.

Having started our evening perfectly at the View Experience, we strolled round to our seats with a few minutes before the show started. No rushing or queuing..

Introduced by James himself, Bonnie took to the stage with her assembled group of seasoned musicians and launched immediately into the lively 'Unexpected consequence of Love' from her "most recent record" (as she put it) and we were on our way..

Her difficulty for this shortened set, was what to include given her vast catalogue of work.

Bonnie Raitt has over her lengthy career, penned, sung and played everything from Blues and Rock, through to Soul and Folk.

Thankfully she included examples of all these styles and genres with gusto, humour and at times political reference. We heard 'Nick of Time' her self-titled 1989 multi Grammy winning album

'Something to Talk About' was dedicated to a couple in the audience as a last minute 'add on' track. Whilst sadly we were not treated to what, for many, is her 

signature song (and my personal favourite) 'I Can't Make You Love Me'. we did hear her unique version of the INXS song 'Need You Tonight'.

James Taylor's Muse (his description) left us wanting to hear so much more and the packed auditorium showed the appreciation she and her band fully deserved.

Then following a short break, arrived Mr James Taylor followed by what he described as "the finest collection of musicians “anywhere”. We were about to see why.

A very sprightly septuagenarian, James opened with a dreamy version of 'Carolina in My Mind'. He then proceeded through his illustrious songbook, peppering the songs with anecdotes about his early years, his colourful private life and the day he auditioned for The Beatles.

Along with his excellent backing singers, he gave us  lovely versions of 'Handy Man' and 'How Sweet It Is', 'Sweet Baby James' followed and then the wonderful homage to his young friend Suzanne Schnerr who took her own life 'Fire and Rain'..

References to and appreciation for his support musicians were both frequent and heart felt and some stunning background digital graphics help tell the story of his remarkable, colourful (that word again) and successful career.

When 'You got a friend' featured, we knew the end was nigh but hadn't expected Bonnie to return to the stage for a haunting, acoustic duet to finish.

Arm in arm they left the stage having thoroughly entertained a large, knowledgeable, and largely mature audience.

By Iain Scott for Canal St Online

Published: 10-Jul-2018

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