"This must be a big meal for a lot of bugs," said the usually taciturn James Taylor, as he surveyed the crowd sprawled on the lawn at the Merriweather Post Pavilion last night. Apparently surprised by his own words, the singer then added: "Sorry, I'm a little bit chatty tonight."

An apology was hardly necessary: Taylor's asides simply added a little droll humor to an evening of finely tuned pop music.

In a sense, there were several Taylors performing: the folk singer whose back porch demeanor belied his sparkling solo guitar arrangements to such songs as "Close Your Eyes"; the pop craftsman who led his familiar sextet through a maze of hits, bettering the recorded versions of several tunes along the way; and the free-wheeling revivalist who contributed to the gorgeous harmonies on the R&B classic "Sea Cruise," brought a contemporary drive to the traditional "Twelve Gates to the City," and recalled rock's infancy with an exhilarating encore of "Summertime Blues."

Considering these personas and the range of his material, Taylor's performance was extraordinarily consistent. Granted, his show may not vary much from year to year, but he can hardly be faulted for sticking with what suits him best.

The concert will be repeated tonight.