Review: WCBS-FM Holiday in Brooklyn Starring James Taylor, Jimmy Buffett & Sarah McLachlan Barclays Center

Radio stations around the country have been sponsoring concerts during the holiday season starring big name artists since the birth of rock & roll. I Heart Radio’s New York outlet, Z100, has been hosting a “Jingle Ball” at Madison Square Garden where chart-topping artists perform a couple of songs and then get off of the stage since the first term of the Reagan administration.        WCBS-FM decided to take a page out of the Z100 promotional playbook and held a “Jingle Ball” for baby boomers with “Holiday in Brooklyn” starring James Taylor, Jimmy Buffett, and Sarah McLachlan.

As expected, each of the artists performed a seasonal classic. McLachlan opened the evening with “Winter Wonderland” as she accompanied herself on mandolin while James Taylor opened his hour-long set with “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” from the 1944 MGM musical “Meet Me In St. Louis.” Taylor’s phrasing accurately captures the wistful quality of the tune. Jimmy Buffett nicely incorporated his carefree party persona into the Bobby Helms hit, “Jingle Bell Rock,” which was arguably the first holiday hit that was attributed to rock & roll music. Buffett wryly joked that the song was from his just-released Christmas album. “I know. It’s a very original album concept!” he cracked.

Buffett also acknowledged that most people associate him with warm, tropical weather, as opposed to seeing him on a very chilly December night in New York as way of introducing “Boat Drinks,” a song about cabin fever in cold northern climes.

Since he is normally a concert headliner as opposed to being a supporting act, Jimmy Buffett, did not bring most of his Coral Reefer Band to Barclays Center. Looking back at the relatively few musicians backing up, Buffett joked, “Where is the rest of the band? Are they on strike?” Nonetheless he dutifully performed “Son Of A Son Of A Sailor,” “Come Monday,” and came out in the homestretch to duet with James Taylor on “Mexico,” an escapist tune that meshes nicely with Buffett’s musical image. Omitted were the rollicking “Cheeseburger In Paradise” and the Parrothead national anthem (as Bufffett’s legendary fans call themselves), “Margaritaville” probably because he needs his full ensemble to do those songs justice.

James Taylor spent the early part of his set performing a pair of tunes he recorded in 1968 for the Beatles’ Apple label, “Carolina In My Mind” and “Something In The Way She Moves.” He joked in is into to the latter that George Harrison liked it so much that he used the opening lyric and created a far bigger hit for himself. He then paid tribute to the late “quiet” Beatle with a rendition of “Here Comes The Sun,” a tune reminding everyone that all winters eventually end and that spring always returns. “Fire & Rain,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” and “Shower The People” were other warmly received JT classics.

Canadian songstress Sarah McLachlan is an artist that is more associated with Lilith Fair than  WCBS-FM (101.1 on your radio dial) which likes to bill itself as the home of New York’s greatest hits. McLachlan’s career got started in the 1990s and WCBS-FM’s playlist generally cuts off at 1989. In addition, even her hits as “I Will Remember You” and “Adia,” borderline on being dirges with lots of cellos employed which is the polar opposite of the upbeat, snappy CBS-FM fare. Nevertheless the Barclays Center audience was respectful and nicely applauded her music.

WCBS-FM’s morning man, Scott Shannon, introduced his team to the audience during a break between sets and observed that nobody comes to see the disc jockeys at a concert. He may have underestimated the audience because the crowd did show their enthusiasm for the work that Shannon, and his colleagues, Dan Taylor, Broadway Bill Lee, and Joe Causi do. CBS-FM fans know that the radio world is changing and the days of radio jocks having personalities have been in decline for years. To its immense credit, WCBS-FM has long resisted this unfortunate trend.

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