FRINGE REVIEW: THE JAMES TAYLOR STORY, IN THE GARAGE INTERNATIONAL AT THE ADELAIDE TOWN HALL, 2019

English singer songwriter, Dan Clews, apparently thinks he actually sounds like Paul Simon when he sings and, as he told his first night Adelaide audience, he expressed sincere surprise when he was first told that he sounded like James Taylor after he had sung one of the American troubadour’s songs at his brother’s wedding.

Now here in town to present The James Taylor Story at the Adelaide Fringe, we can confirm that Clews certainly does sound like Taylor – he possesses the same purity of voice and gentleness of tone – and that he is also an excellent acoustic guitarist. I could not pick up too many Paul Simon nuances though!

Performing at the Garage International, the old church meeting room behind the Town Hall, Clews held the audience transfixed as he played through a selection of songs from Taylor’s early canon.

This selection was, happily, full of unexpected surprises.

After starting with a beautifully rendered Sweet Baby James, he played Copperline, a song from 1991before going back in time to play the first song that Taylor ever wrote, Roll River Roll – a song that Taylor never officially recorded or released, demonstrating the level of research detail Clews has put into preparing this show.

Other lesser known songs such as Knocking Around The Zoo, Night Owl, Something In The Way She MovesLong Ago And Far Away and Close Your Eyes, were all delivered with a respectful precision and delicacy that brought loud and enthusiastic applause, even if they did not bring immediate recognition.

In between songs, Clews detailed some of the trials and tribulations of Taylor’s life, as well as celebrating some of the happy accidents and successes that made him such an iconic star in the sixties and seventies.

Of course, the most enthusiastically received songs were the standards Fire & Rain, Carolina and You’ve Got A Friend. The audience singing accompaniment in the latter created a wonderful moment that visibly moved Clews, who then declared Adelaide’s ‘choir’ to be of much better voice than those who joined in during his Edinburgh Fringe performances.

Clews also found room to sing one of his own compositions, a sublime tune in the Taylor mode, called Alpha Crucis, the quality of which made me buy his CD after the gig just in order to hear it again.

As the audience filed out, many, in their delight, were unable to avoid sharing their opinions of the show with others. A lot of disembodied superlatives could be heard in snatches of animated conversation, as well as one enraptured comment:  ‘You know, if you closed your eyes…it was James Taylor!

James Taylor fans will certainly love this show. In many ways it was better than seeing the real thing – at least when seeing the real thing the last time he was here meant you had to sit in 50 degree heat in the full sun for hours risking heat stroke in a dusty paddock in Botanic Park! This, by comparison, was a much more civilised and comfortable experience!

The show runs for only fifty minutes, and whilst it is a pity that it is not longer, every minute we get is a diamond.

This is another show that deserves a full house every night.

Rating:  5 stars

The James Taylor Story is being performed at the Garage International @ The Adelaide Town Hall on 6-9 March at 7:10pm & then 12-16 March at 8:30pm. Get tickets HERE.

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