By Hans Ebert
Word is that James Taylor is performing in Hong Kong next month and that drummer Steve Gadd will be part of his backup band. Guess so.
Musician friends are looking forward to the gig and have taken it for granted that I’ll be there. But I’m not too sure I will as I’ve cancelled out on seeing so many of my musical heroes recently. Sometimes, it’s had to do with scheduling, and other times it’s had to do with just not caring enough to make the trek to the venue and come away feeling both sad and disappointed. Most times, you’d rather listen to what they have to say. We don’t seem to listen too much these days. There’s way too much oneupmanship which I blame on all the clutter on social media where too many intellectual midgets are given a voice.
Seeing musical heroes age is tough. It says something about them and much about you. James Taylor was one of the first performers I saw in London. It was at the Royal Albert Hall, the opening act was Ian Matthews’ Matthew’s Southern Comfort, who I had never heard of before, and from who I wasn’t expecting much. Bring on Sweet Baby James and Mudslide Slim. I left with three highlights of that night still living with me- Taylor’s laid back and intimate performance, his ‘live’ version of “Country Roads”, but with the piece de resistance being Matthew’s Southern Comfort’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”.
It was then, and still is today, a brilliant version and I have followed the singer-songwriter’s career since then- consistent without being mind blowing like first hearing Jackson Browne, Kenny Rankin, Loggins and Messina or the songs of Jimmy Webb and Leon Russell.
So, is there a fear about going to see a musical hero perform their Best Of album in person, and demand for an encore which, in James Taylor’s case, will probably be “Steamroller Blues”? Would this only remind me of my own mortality and the woman or women who were always part of my life through his songs?
Definitely, and which is probably why I’d rather spend some quality time with James Taylor and Steve Gadd talking about life and songs and their incredible careers and where their heads are at right now over a dim sum lunch in a funky little restaurant in Causeway Bay.
This would, to me, be the perfect “concert”. It’s about getting behind the music, knowing the stories that led to them, and appreciating the original versions even more by listening to them with a fresh perspective when back home.
It’s not about being a groupie, it’s about being a journalist, and learning something about an artist that you never knew. Would I be interested in what Bad Company has to say? Or Bon Jovi, Journey- they’re out here in March- Judas Priest, Metallica or Def Leppard? Nah. There’s got to be something very exclusive about those dim sum lunches.
Jeez, and to think I’m writing this while the television is on E! Entertainment and the hyper hosts are excitedly reporting about the return of Kim Kardashian to Paris since her robbery- they stole Kanye?- and the hookups of Selena Gomez and The Weeknd and J-Lo and Drake.
Dearie me, but what a low ebb in its life this world has reached when someone is screaming, “Has Oprah cheated on her diet?” and this future leader of the “free world” communicates through Twitter?
On a more positive note and with the television switched off, my friend and I just played a game where we each wrote down the ten musicians we’d like to have dinner with and get to know them better through the stories behind their music. On her list were Katie Melua, Norah Jones, Julia Fordham, Tracy Chapman, Alicia Keys and Killers. Eclectic tastes, eclectic lady.
On my dim sum list: Jimmy Page, McCartney, Dylan, Scarlet Johansson- she sings, okay- Paul Simon, Todd Rundgren, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Alison Krauss and, yes, James Taylor.
Everyone’s different, but there comes a time when the fawning must stop. Maybe spending an entire day with Quincy Jones and hearing all about his incredible career including the making of “Thriller” over a dim sum lunch is all the star spotting needed? How does anyone top that?
Sure, respect musicians- and film directors and actors, actresses, entrepreneurs, forward thinkers, even some of those little guys who ride big horses- but as someone always reminded me, they’re just people. Be in awe of their work, but also know that with some sweet inspiration, there’s something great waiting to come out of YOU. Maybe it’s there just going through a long gestation period, or is lying dormant until you flip your life around and be with that someone who inspires you and not try to walk over all your dreams?
Those people will never understand the importance of a dim sum lunch and The Dim Sum Diaries that you can read from time to time and which give you the inspiration to get off your arse and create. Like dancing naked by yourself, who cares if no one hears it or reads it? It’s all yours and no one can take it away from you, but you can take it with you wherever you decide to check out and head to Graceland or wherever.
Pass me that last spring roll, will you? Thanks.