Taylor takes the stage, continuing a tradition
The Archon from 1983 notes that pop singer-songwriter, Livingston Taylor, performed for a crowd of around 200 students at Cholmondeley's that same year. A longtime Brandeis favorite, Taylor has performed on campus numerous times since the '80s and in 2009 even hosted Brandeis' Folk Fest.
He took the Brandeis stage again on Friday night, performing a set of diverse songs, telling stories and short anecdotes to a packed recital hall in Slosberg Music Center. Taylor made the audience feel right at home as he engaged with them on a personal level, using casual language and telling jokes. It is no wonder why Taylor is very skilled at stage performance-he has built part of his career around the art. A professor at the Berklee College of Music, Taylor teaches classes specifically focused on stage performance.
In an interview with the Justice, Taylor spoke about the performance class he is currently teaching. "It's a class that focuses on how to be onstage and what your responsibilities are on stage ... and above all, how you can be of service to an audience with an inherent understanding that this was your idea to be onstage-not theirs," he said.
Taylor opened with "Call Me Carolina," a mellow song with a soothing while slightly solemn
tune. He continued to play a variety of pieces: some soft, some fast, some slow, some sad, some jovial.
Although Taylor's style has been categorized as jazz, gospel and even Broadway, he told the Justice that he thinks of himself primarily as a pop musician, playing music that is, as he said, "easy and accessible to listen to." "I don't like to strain my listeners very much. I don't like to demand much from my audience," he said.
Many of Taylor's songs were serious and included themes of lost love and heartbreak. But some were quite funny, including "Dollar Bill," a song about a woman who writes a message on a dollar bill that travels from hand to hand until it magically, and conveniently, ends up in her lover's hand. When asked about the major themes in his work, Taylor said, "Generally, the theme that works best is ... either honor and duty or reproduction. People simply never tire [of] hearing about the reproductive process and all the problems associated there."
In a very amusing improvisation right before intermission, Taylor made up a piece about intermission, singing verses about concessions, CD sales, bathroom lines and getting caught up talking to old friends.
Taylor did not stick to his own compositions entirely-he performed a variety of his covers by other artists and from other time periods. He played "Wonderful Guy" by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, a toned-down and more melodic version of "The Trolley Song" from the musical Meet Me in Saint Louis (1944), both the Tin Man's and Scare Crow's songs and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz.
Taylor switched between the guitar and the piano throughout his performance but he says en- joys playing the guitar more: "I play the guitar better than I play the piano so I tend to lean on the guitar. It sounds better when I play the guitar."
He also noted the advantages of playing the guitar in performance: "The thing I like about the guitar is that when you're playing the guitar, it's very easy to watch your music land on an audience- see what effect your music is having," he said.
However, some of his guitar pieces would not be possible with- out the help of the piano. "The piano is the language that music is spoken in. So sometimes I'll start writing a song on the guitar and then I'll take it to the piano to solve some technical problems," he said.
Taylor ended the concert with a soulful rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and asked the audience to join in. The soft singing in unison represented the community that the Festival of the Arts fosters every year.
On Friday night, Taylor further developed his strong relationship with the University community, a relationship that runs deep and will hopefully continue for years to come.