It was 44 years ago, in 1970, that James Taylor last played in Bangor. It was at the old Bangor Auditorium, on a double bill with Carole King. Four and a half decades after that concert, Taylor finally returned to Bangor for a nearly sold-out show at the Cross Insurance Center on Sunday night.
“It’s been a good long time since I saw you last, hasn’t it?” said Taylor, during a concert that showcased many of Taylor’s sixteen studio albums, from “Sunshine Sunshine” from his first self-titled studio album, released in 1968, to “Copperline” from his 1991 album “New Moon Shine,” to a brand new, still-unreleased song, the country-tinged “Today, Today, Today.”
Though he’s been writing, recording and performing for nearly 50 years, his voice still sounds near-identical to the songs people first heard in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
“I was in college when I first heard his music,” said Anne Dutton of Brunswick, who came to the concert with her husband. “He’s been a part of my life for a long time. I played his music for my children when they were growing up.”
Taylor was in a chatty mood, telling many stories behind the songs he performed, such as one about a song he wrote in the late 1970s called “Millworker,” and how the writer Studs Terkel and his book “Working” inspired the song. A cheer went up when he mentioned the writer.
“You’re probably the first audience I’ve had that apparently knows who Studs Terkel is,” said Taylor.
He related one story early in the concert, about the song “Something In The Way She Moves,” from his first album, and how it was that song that he performed for Paul McCartney and John Lennon in a small room.
“They signed me to Apple Records, and that was my big break in show business,” said Taylor, later telling a story about sneaking in to watch the Beatles record “The White Album” in London, but still being homesick — and being inspired to write “Carolina In My Mind.”
The good-humored Taylor also responded to many of the exclamations from the audience, from several shouts of “I love you!” to requests for certain hit songs, like “Sweet Baby James” or “Fire and Rain.” Taylor played with an impressive seven-piece band including horns and violin, with a four-person backup vocal group. They seamlessly combined all the elements he’s incorporated all along — folk, pop, r&b and just a little bit of country — while playing on a beautiful, warmly lit stage set.
Up next at the Cross Insurance Center is rock legend John Fogerty, set for Saturday, Aug. 2. Other highlights in the coming months include Bill Cosby on Sept. 12, and country performer Brantley Gilbert with Aaron Lewis on Sept. 28.
A previous version of this story incorrectly named a James Taylor song as “Sweet Baby Jane.”