Friday August 3, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- When first lady Michelle Obama comes to town this afternoon for a private campaign fundraiser at the Colonial Theatre, featuring a one-hour concert by James Taylor, acting Police Chief Michael Wynn expects that "the impact on traffic should be minimal."

Wynn said Thursday that, in fact, traffic flow may improve because the South Street reconstruction project will be shut down early.

No specific parking restrictions will be imposed for the 3 p.m. event, Wynn said, though he noted that the city parking lot adjoining the theater is likely to fill up quickly with the vehicles of advance teams associated with Mrs. Obama's campaign swing.

As for security surrounding her appearance, local police will have "some minimal involvement," Wynn added.

"Everything looks well-planned, we expect it will be well-executed, and it should be a good event for the downtown," the chief said.

Doors open for ticket-holders at 2:45. Mrs. Obama will be arriving after a fundraising luncheon at Springfield's Basketball Hall of Fame. She will also attend a private dinner and discussion for 20 guests at Gov. Deval Patrick's Richmond home.

For Taylor, who'll perform with his wife Kim and longtime backup vocalist Kate Marko witz, as well as Jeff Babco on keyboard and Boston Sym phony cellist Owen Young, it will be a return to familiar ground at the Colonial. Taylor spent nearly a week there in July 2007 preparing and then performing his "One Man Band" show before a live audience for a national telecast and DVD and CD release.

He also appeared there at the Berkshire second-term inauguration ceremony for Patrick in January 2009 and during the Berkshire Theatre Group's run of "A Christmas Carol" last December.

The singer-songwriter told The Eagle on Thursday that he has been active in the Barack Obama re-election campaign this year, appearing at private, living room fundraisers, as well as large-scale events designed as a "thank you, esprit de corps kind of thing to support the ground troops, the people who are ringing doorbells."

He also performed at a major fundraiser featuring the first lady in Charlotte, N.C., last February.

The set list for the Colonial was being assembled late Thurs day, but Taylor explained that there's a repertoire he delves into for the small group he'll be fronting, similar to the show he did for Haitian earthquake relief at the Mahaiwe Perform ing Arts Center in Great Barrington on Jan. 22, 2010.

In addition to his mellow ballads, he said, "we do a version of ‘Mexico' and a few other things that are up-tempo."

"Kim and I are really honored that we were asked to work with the campaign," Taylor said, noting that he has performed in support of Democratic candidates as far back as George McGovern in 1972, as well as for Al Gore, John Kerry and the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

"Actually, Barack Obama is one of my few winning campaigns," said Taylor. "But that's really not the point to pick a winner, the point is to go where your heart lies."

Nevertheless, Taylor noted that he pauses briefly when considering becoming involved in a campaign, since he considers his music, by and large, non-political.

"While I have some political songs and in a larger sense others that have a political side," he said, "there's always a moment of hesitation at the thought that people are attracted to the event by an apolitical art form and then having it be a political statement."

In order to get over those concerns, Taylor said "it has to be really something, the event, the political campaign and the importance of it."

Acknowledging that he's "not in a position to preach to people about politics," Taylor offered a ringing endorsement of President Obama's administration.

"I feel so positively and earnestly about Obama and the first lady, this administration and this leader," he said.

Kim Taylor, who'll be singing backup at the Colonial, said the couple's 11-year-old twin sons, Rufus and Henry, feel a mix of excitement and trepidation about meeting Mrs. Obama again.

When the family spent some time with Mrs. Obama in Charlotte last February before leaving for tour dates in France and Italy, Mrs. Taylor said, "the first lady was asking the boys if they were going to learn French and Italian."

The boys promised to do so, but it didn't quite work out that way, and now they're worried that Mrs. Obama will speak to them in French.

"Now they're very nervous and terrified," Mrs. Taylor said. "They take it so seriously."

James Taylor, coming off an extensive international and national tour that has kept him on the road for most of the past six months, said that rather than taking a respite, he and his wife will be performing frequently on behalf of the Obama campaign.

"I've said to them, ‘Put me in, coach, wherever we can be of help and useful.' I anticipate we'll be working as long as there's any need for us," Taylor said.

Since North Carolina was Taylor's boyhood home, he's especially anticipating a role at the Democratic National Con vention to be held in Charlotte Sept. 4-6.

President Obama faces former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in the November election.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.



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