Following on from my confession in last month’s column that I had failed to visit Ibiza in 27 years of living in Catalonia, I must now confess to not having attended a concert at El Palau de la Musica Catalana in all my time here either. Shameful, I know. In my defence, I had visited this architectural joy of a Modernist building on several occasions and been on guided tours to take in its breath-taking beauty, I had just never listened to music there, which is presumably what it was built for, if the name is anything to go by. Well, all of that changed last month when I finally got to see a concert that had been postponed for two years because of Covid, James Taylor gracing this hallowed venue with his inimitable finger-picking style and angelic voice.

My mother having been something of a hippy, I grew up with the songs of Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and James Taylor echoing around the house, whether from what was back then known as a gramophone, or from my mum’s own renditions of the songs. She used to sing in the Manchester folk clubs of the 1960s, you see, so hers were renditions worth listening to. Now, although I never got the chance to see Simon & Garfunkel while they were still playing together, I have seen Dylan on several occasions, but I had never fulfilled the dream of seeing James Taylor live, until now. And what better venue could there be than the Palace of Music? Waiting almost three years since the concert was first announced to actually get to see it meant that the expectation levels were through the roof by the time JT arrived in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago.

Now being ultra-critical by nature, what I am about to write may seem like blasphemy to some, but here goes. Observation number one: what on Earth are the seating numbers all about? There is no way anyone is going to find their seat without the help of a member of staff, which makes the whole seating process take much longer than it needs to.

Observation number two: I know the Palace was designed and built in the early 20th century, but having fellow concertgoers so close in front that their hair is pretty much in your face as you attempt to peer around them to get a glimpse of the stage (we had seats near the front on the first floor, by the way) does not make for the most pleasant of experiences. In my opinion, the angle of the seats is not steep enough to allow the audience a decent view of the stage, meaning that the constant need to shift position threatens to detract from the performance. The fact that we had a less than considerate group in front of us, who had bought tickets in two rows, one behind the other, and deemed it appropriate to constantly lean forward and chat to one another, meant that we had to constantly compete with their positioning just to get a decent view. I was left to wonder what it must be like to watch an opera here, since it really did not seem too audience-friendly, at least from our seats.

Having said all of that, Sweet Baby James was magnificent, and I was there to listen rather than watch, so the memory of his beautiful voice and acoustic guitar in such beautiful surroundings trumped all of the above considerations. Another experience ticked off the bucket list.


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