The last time James Taylor played the Newport Folk Festival, he was interrupted. He was a good sport about it though, given that the interloper was Neil Armstrong taking a giant leap for mankind. It was July 20, 1969, and Taylor had just played his beloved classic — then still relatively new — “Fire and Rain” — when US astronauts landed on the moon and the organizers stopped the show to share the broadcast.
Saturday, the second day of this year’s festival, Taylor surprised fans as a late afternoon additionon the main stage.
Taylor is currently on tour for his first new album in 13 years, “Before This World,” which debuted at number one, and played a 30-minute set of classic cuts and a new tune with a small band that included his wife, Kim, on backing vocals.
Taylor reminisced about his last time at the festival in between tunes like “Carolina In My Mind,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” and “Sweet Baby James.” At the end of his set, he welcomed festival founder George Wein to the stage for a rousing ovation.
Backstage after the show Taylor and Wein sat for a chat with the festival film crew, and Wein exclaimed: “We got James Taylor this year, who do we get to top that next year?”
Taylor says the original fest, at which he was billed as a “new face,” was one of his first big gigs and he kept Saturday’s appearance under his hat for two months. He gave high praise to Americana artist Jason Isbell who preceded him onstage. “I told him ‘I hope I don’t have to follow you too much more often.’ I love his stuff.” Taylor will be back in Boston for a sold-out show at Fenway Park on Aug. 6.