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Superfans anticipate Taylor concert at Arena

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Paul Cromie first heard a James Taylor song when he was 14.

He was working as a dishwasher at a summer camp in New York where the camp director's daughter, a counselor, played Taylor's music after campers were tucked into their bunks for the night.

"I had probably three or four of his songs memorized by the end of the summer," Cromie said, "and it just struck a chord with me and it's stuck ever since."

The Sugar Hill resident was sitting at his computer Jan. 23, ready to purchase tickets for tonight's sold-out Arena concert featuring Taylor and Carole King as soon as they went on sale.

"I've always done that with him because they get eaten up," he said, "especially when he comes to Atlanta."

The pair of tickets was an anniversary gift for Cromie and his wife, Cheri, who celebrated three years of marriage in January.

Cromie had introduced her to Taylor's music when they began dating.

"She had heard of him, but I don't think she had ever listened to him as in depth," he said. "That's one of the things about JT, his lyrics tell a story and that's what music should be."

Cromie has seen Taylor in concert more than a dozen times, most recently at Chastain Park Amphitheater in 2008, the first time Cheri Cromie had seen the singer-songwriter live.

"It was just amazing to see her really enjoy it and see him in person," Paul Cromie said. "That, without a doubt, was probably the best time."

Debra Cannarella was at that same concert. It was the Loganville resident's fifth time seeing Taylor live. She's driven out of state three times to see his shows.

Cannarella, now 35, became a fan after her high school sweetheart introduced her to Taylor's music. They went in together, Cannarella buying half of Taylor's CDs and her boyfriend buying the rest, to amass his complete collection.

"I've just been a huge fan ever since," she said.

The first time Cannarella saw Taylor in concert was during college. She arrived early at the North Carolina venue, the first car in the parking lot. While waiting for the gates to open, she was able to hear Taylor doing a sound check. It was also the one and only time she has heard him sing her favorite song, "You Can Close Your Eyes," live, despite seeing Taylor perform in concert on four other occasions.

"It's kind of a slower song," she said. "The stuff he does in concert tends to be the more upbeat, fun kind of stuff."

When asked about his favorite Taylor song, Cromie names one tune, "Carolina on my Mind," then names another.

"'Secret of Life' is actually my favorite, I have to admit," he said. "Just the lyrics, just enjoying the passage of time and just taking advantage of every moment."

For Cromie, Taylor's staying power is the continuity in his vocal recordings and live performances.

"One of the things I've always admired about JT is whether you were listening to him on a CD, on the radio or in person, it's just the same," Cromie said. "He sounds the same and over the years there's been no change. The man is just ageless. His voice is ageless. He sounds as good today as when I first heard him 31 years ago."