James Taylor

Blickling Hall

The slight, bald figure that stepped tentatively on to the Blickling Hall stage on Saturday did not come close to Donny, Cliff or Tom Jones in the glamour department.

James Taylor looked like his grey shirt and stonewashed black jeans - faded out - but his musical talent and back catalogue more than matched his fellow performers.

And while it has been the women rushing to the stage while the husbands looked sheepishly on at the other concerts this weekend, Taylor appealed to every one of the 7500-strong crowd.

As the ageing hippy and his five-member band took to the stage the picnics were packed away and a faint smell of cannabis wafted over the audience - most of whom were fans in his 1970s heyday.

But there was a good smattering of the younger generation, who have adopted Taylor and many of his counterparts, like Joni Mitchell and Arthur Lee, as their own.

All were held in rapture as Taylor stormed through his greatest hits. Particular applause went to renditions of early classics Carolina in my Mind and Mexico, while cowboy songs Sweet Baby James and Diamond Joe had the crowd foot stomping.

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Rhythm and blues-style Steamroller upped the ante further and saw Taylor at his most animated, dancing wildly all over the stage - with the audience lapping it up.

But perhaps the biggest cheer of the night went to Taylor's political songs. The first, Line 'em Up, lambasted Nixon, the second, Slap Leather, merited out the same treatment to Reagan.

Before playing them Taylor said: "It's about time I wrote another one. I thought they were scandalous but until Bush came along I didn't know the meaning of the word." The audience screamed their approval.

Taylor ended the first half with Fire and Rain and the second with You've Got a Friend, his two most beautiful and well-known songs.

After two encores the crowd reluctantly let him go, but the look of awe on their faces as the floodlights came on showed they knew they had witnessed something very special.

Taylor promised to come back to Norfolk very soon and if he does not stick to it there will be many thousands of disappointed people indeed.