I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to write some commentary on Ben Taylor‘s performance at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, MA, on August 14th. Since I’ve included previous concerts for this year in my show tally, this was show #45. I was very happy to return to Martha’s Vineyard (and conclude my Cross Country 3 journey) just in time for the concert that evening. I had attended his similar concert in 2010, also at the Old Whaling Church. Ten years ago, almost to the day, my mom and I were also in attendance for his sister Sally‘s concert there. Of course, their family history with Martha’s Vineyard is no secret, and contributes to the appeal of the Island in some people’s eyes.
I later discovered that this concert was in fact Part 2 of a family double bill, coming immediately on the heels of a concert on Nantucket which Ben’s mom had played just the previous day. She made a special cameo appearance during the new song Worlds Are Made of Paper, which I’ve embedded below in a recorded version they made soon after (or just before?) this concert. Needless to say, the crowd went wild for her backup singing, with many smart phones swinging in to action to capture brief live recordings of the song. Meanwhile, many if not all of the supporting musical artists were featured in similar or slightly different roles to how they had performed on Nantucket. The one exception was Ben’s Aunt Kate, who was visible in the pre-show crowd and joined him onstage for the traditional closing family song, Close Your Eyes.
I wondered if the double-header nature of this concert might have contributed to my feeling that last year (2010)’s concert was the superior evening. It’s all in my guesses and assumptions, but I felt that the performance energy may not have been as focused as 2010. There was definitely more of a workman-like feeling to the evening, moving through each song and trying to stick to a schedule. Ben himself did not stick around for autographs as he did in 2010. He featured the same opening act, Julian, who had me feeling strong deja vu as he performed identical songs with the same introductions he’d given last year. However, it does make me consider the performer’s lifestyle and choices – how do you keep something fresh that you have performed hundreds of times or more?
The presence of Ben’s family friend Arnold McCuller definitely enlivened the evening. He brought soulful and enthusiastic vocals to all of his solo tunes, and willingly shifted roles between supporting and lead singer. The Vineyard Gazette published a detailed interview with McCuller in their weekly issue coinciding with the concert, but I see they’ve now made the article available by subscription only.
Despite my mixed impressions of the creative and technical side of the concert, there’s no denying that it was the perfect way for me to come home to Martha’s Vineyard and conclude my cross country journey. I thought frequently during the concert about my lasting appreciation of the Island’s First Musical Family, and felt a sense of gratitude to be able to hear (most of) them in action again.