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Sunday, June 13
2010

THE HARTFORD COURANT – James Taylor, Carole King Masterful at Mohegan

By Donna Larcen

Reunions are always tricky.

But when it’s Carole King and James Taylor getting together to celebrate a 40-year-old concert, the meeting transcends nostalgia.

In the first of two performances Saturday at the Mohegan Sun, King and Taylor rolled out a generous 28-song retrospective of greatest hits, played in fresh ways. They tapped the talents of musicians who were with them at the beginning: guitarist Danny Kortchmar (who introduced the artists in 1969), bass player Leland Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel.

Taylor brought along backup singers Arnold McCuller and Kate Markowitz plus Andrea Zonn, who also performed on violin.

Like two heavyweight boxers Taylor then King traded songs. But they are the most cooperative of performers, providing harmony and support as each took the spotlight.

Taylor kicked off with “Something In the Way She Moves,” the song that landed him a deal with the Beatles’ Apple label. King followed with “So Far Away,” from her mega hit album “Tapestry.”
Taylor is the introvert; King the opposite. He is likely to sit or stand behind his guitar sing smoothly and proficiently with attention to detail and harmony. She accompanied herself on piano turning out hit after hit but doing it with big smiles and, at times, grabbing a hand mike, strutting on stage and belting out her songs.

King performed a vintage version of her early hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” with Taylor bowing to her at the end. He then showed his goofy side on “Steamroller Blues” playing with the lyrics, duck walking across the stage and then, in a nod to his 62 years, using the guitar as a crutch to get back to an upright position.

King’s infectious good humor and musicianship challenged Taylor and each rose to a level beyond what they may do in a solo concert.

And so it went through 28 songs.

Their regular set ended with King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” a hit for both of them.” And this was the theme of the night. These solo artists have always surrounded themselves with great collaborators: King at the start with her co-writer and then-husband Gerry Goffin. Taylor with Kortchmar in his first group as a teen and harmonizing with ex-wife Carly Simon.

It was also telling that each performing as aged without benefit of plastic surgery. She has wrinkles and he is balding. Who cares. Their life experience comes through in their music and their performances, making them resonant to a crowd with its own aging issues.

The duo played a series of concerts in 2007 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Troubadour, a legendary club in West Hollywood. Something sparked and they talked about touring. They came up with enough material for a 6-hour show, so each night the set list has some changes. The set list includes a core of hits: Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” “Sweet Baby James,” “Country Road” and King’s “I Feel the Earth Move,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Up on the Roof.”

The crowd was dependable and ready for multiple sing- alongs. Sign any of them up for back up duty. They knew all the words, sang in harmony and clapped on the beat.

The staging is suggestive of the Troubadour’s interior. The circular stage rotates slowly (remember the original Oakdale?) while a ring of cabaret tables are lit with soft table lights. Video screens project the performers; a round screen above the stage showed background images, including decades old photos of a curly haired King and long-haired Taylor from their early collaborations.

After a two-hour plus show with encore, King and Taylor came for an intimate closing. He played guitar and she perched next to him as they crooned “You Can Close Your Eyes.” As they finished, she leaned into him gently placing her head on his shoulder.

It was sweet ending to a powerful night.

“Carole King & James Taylor Troubadour Reunion Tour” repeats tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Mohegan Sun’s Arena. Tickets are $75 and $95. Information: 888-226-7711 and http://www.mohegansun.com.

Friday, June 11
2010

PHILLY.COM – Carole King & James Taylor: Aging gracefully, like their music

By Nick Cristiano

Just four songs into their show at the sold-out Wachovia Center on Thursday night, James Taylor got the age joke out of the way. He and Carole King, he said, “were trying to remember what was in the original set when we played the Troubadour in 1903.”

Yes, the two iconic artists who helped set the template for the singer-songwriter movement of the 1970s are long in the tooth – King is 68 and Taylor 62.

They actually first played the Troubadour, the storied Los Angeles club, in 1970, the year they began their enduring friendship and artistic collaboration. For this Troubadour Reunion tour, however, both looked trim and fit: They appear to have aged as well as their music, as they displayed over two stirring sets.

The circular, slowly rotating stage was surrounded by tables with lamps to approximate the look of the Troubadour. It’s a silly conceit – unless you had seats there, no doubt – given the cavernous size and sterility of the Wachovia Center. But, from the vantage point of the first-level stands, King and Taylor managed to present an arena-size show that retained their music’s innate craftsmanship, intimacy, and soul while adding vigor, muscle, and showmanship.

It helped, of course, that the two had such superb accompaniment. Taylor’s acoustic guitar and King’s piano were augmented by three backup singers and a band whose three core members go all the way back to the start with the duo – guitarist Danny Kortchmar, bassist Lee Sklar, and drummer Russ Kunkel.

Taylor and King took turns presenting selections from their beloved catalogs, each providing instrumental and vocal support for the other – King’s “It’s Too Late,” for instance, seguing into Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.”

To point up their similarities, King introduced a pair of songs she said they had written separately and simultaneously – her “Song of Long Ago” gave way to Taylor’s similarly reflective “Long Ago and Far Away.” Taylor then followed King’s feel-good anthem “Beautiful” with his own hymn of sorts, “Shower the People,” goosing it into gospel transcendance with the help of a spectacular vocal by backup singer Arnold McCuller.

The alternating format also highlighted the stars’ differences. The lanky Taylor still has a Sweet Baby James charm and a slight patrician air about him. Most of his songs are defined by his precisely picked guitar and soothing voice, with its hint of a honeyed North Carolina drawl.

The huskier-voiced King may be living in Idaho these days, but an earthy R&B spirit underpins much of the native New Yorker’s work. She nearly brought down the house at the end of the first set with “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and she did the same near the close of the second with the piano-pounding “I Feel the Earth Move.”

Fittingly, Taylor and King closed the second set with probably their most famous collaboration – “You’ve Got a Friend,” the King-penned ballad that Taylor took to No. 1.

Thursday, June 10
2010

THE WASHINGTON POST – Carole King and James Taylor make beautiful music at Verizon Center

By Dave McKenna

DuPont’s best and brightest couldn’t produce better chemistry in a lab than what James Taylor and Carole King come up with onstage.

They’re hardly alike. Appearing together at Verizon Center on Tuesday, King, now 68, was raucous beyond belief, while Taylor, at 62, exuded superhuman serenity. Fire and rain, one might say.

The old friends are touring to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their first show together, a gig at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. The singers are backed on the road by, as Taylor put it, all “the original cats” that appeared with them in 1969 in L.A. — a supergroup including Leland Sklar on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums and Danny Kortchmar on guitar.

To kick off the nearly 2 1/2 -hour retrospective performance, Taylor sang “Something in the Way She Moves.” That’s a fabulously appropriate set opener and hinted that their respective ties to the Beatles had helped bring Taylor and King together all those years ago. Taylor originally recorded that song for his 1968 debut LP shortly after the Fabs made him the first non-British act signed to their Apple Records. (He repaid the biggest band in the universe for their kindness by letting them cop his lyrics to open George Harrison’s “Something.”)

And years before launching Taylor’s career, the Beatles recorded “Chains,” which King had written with former husband Gerry Goffin during her days as a hitmaking machine in the Brill Building era.

On Tuesday night, King, in a rare mellow moment, offered up “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” her chronicle of young romance and all the vulnerability that goes with it, and one of the most beautiful pop songs of all time. The Beatles played that tune live in the days before coming across the pond. The cracks in King’s voice that have come with age only made the song more devastatingly great.

Taylor reminded folks of his supreme melody-making gifts and otherworldly niceness with enduring radio staples “Fire and Rain,” “Sweet Baby James” and “Carolina in My Mind,” the latter also dating back to his Apple debut. They dueted magically on songs that King wrote and Taylor recorded soft-core versions of long ago: “Up on the Roof” and “You’ve Got a Friend.” The commercial success that he found with his hyper-introspective material and other similarly low-volume singles opened doors for a lot of singer-songwriters who lacked his chops, and, for better or worse, made Taylor as responsible as anybody for taking the oomph out of pop radio for so much of the 1970s.

King, however, remains very much able to bring out the oomph. For “I Feel the Earth Move,” she got out from behind her grand piano to shimmy and kick all over the in-the-round stage. “This is my day job!” she screamed when she was done dancing.

And the night’s highlight came when she turned her glorious and soulful “Natural Woman” into a power ballad. The tune ended with much of the sellout crowd on its feet and following her lead in singing a rowdy chorus of “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” Much as a famous pop band once did.

McKenna is a freelance writer.

Monday, June 7
2010

THE TAMPA BAY TIMES – Review: James Taylor, Carole King deliver a once-in-a-lifetime performance in Tampa

By Jeff O’Kelley

For most people, there are certain albums that hold a special place in their record collection. Everyone has their own list, with each entry representative of a particular memory, place or event. While some of my personal favorites have rotated over the years, a few have remained etched in stone.

Two of these are Tapestry, the minimalistic 1971 release from songwriter Carole King; and James Taylor’s 1976 Greatest Hits collection. Although I’ve seen James Taylor in concert once before, I’ve never had the opportunity to experience Carole King in person. Sunday night’s Troubadour Reunion concert at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa was an once-in-a-lifetime chance to see both of these extraordinary songwriters together.

In an effort to recreate the look and feel of a vintage nightclub performance, Taylor and King commissioned a unique and technically groundbreaking stage design for this tour. The stage is circular and rotates in alternating directions to give everyone in the house a great seat for at least part of the performance.

Surrounding the stage is a VIP seating area featuring café-type tables for two and enclosed by a lighted barrier. The sound system is suspended above the stage, along with an elaborate array of video screens and special effects. The combination is both high-tech and intimate at the same time.

King and Taylor were joined onstage by longtime band mates guitarist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, drummer Russ Kunkel and bassist Leland Sklar. Rounding out this talented group of musicians was Rudy Guess, Arnold McCuller and Kate Markowitz. Although the stage was occupied by eight musicians and two cameramen throughout the night, the lack of sound equipment made it feel open and roomy.

As for the music, Taylor said that when he and King got together to decide on which songs to include on this tour, the set list was nearly seven hours long. After some tough negotiation, they managed to decide on a three-hour show that includes hits such as It’s Too Late, Fire and Rain, Jazzman, You Need a Friend and How Sweet It Is.

While songs like Sweet Baby James and I Feel the Earth Move were obvious crowd favorites, I was quite taken by some of the lesser known songs chosen for this show. One of my personal favorites was King’s Crying in the Rain, which was a hit for the Everly Brothers in 1962. Another highlight of the evening was Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, a King tune made famous by the Shirelles. For this song, Taylor and King performed a duet, with King on piano.

In my opinion, the Troubadour Reunion tour lived up to the hype and offered a memorable evening of music. Although in their 60s, both Carole King and James Taylor sounded better than ever and commanded the stage with the energy of much younger musicians. It’s one of those rare tours that will probably never happen again, and should not be missed.

Monday, June 7
2010

BROWARD/PALM BEACH NEW TIMES – Concert Review: James Taylor and Carole King at BankAtlantic Center, Saturday, June 5

By Lee Zimmerman

James Taylor and Carole King
BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
Saturday, June 5, 2010

There’s no song with a title that mentions “Memories” anywhere within the combined repertoire of James Taylor and Carole King, even though they share so more sentimental songs in common. In fact, it’s hard to find even a mere mention of the word in any of their numbers. It only appeared once, towards the end of the reformed duo’s Saturday night’s set at BankAtlantic Center, appropriately written into a new verse composed specifically for this tour and melded as a coda to “You’ve Got a Friend,” arguably the cushiest song of friendship ever written. And yet, though the word was mentioned only fleetingly, its meaning was on the minds of all those in attendance, audience and performers alike. With most of the set drawn from material written and recorded nearly 40 years back, memories and sentiment were an integral part of the evening.

And what an evening it was. Two performers whose simpatico connection transcends those four decades, whose love and affection for one another and their audience was clearly evident and never forced. What other concert finds the musicians applauding one another after every song, or so effectively embracing the audience without falsely pandering to their expectations? Two singer-songwriters whose careers practically define the form, the original stellar backing band — including Leland Sklar on bass, drummer Hal Blaine, and the man who played with both and brought them together originally, Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar — and of course, those magnificent songs, those anthems that melted the hearts of an entire generation: “So Far Away,” “Something in the Way She Moves,” “Sweet Baby James,” “Up On the Roof,” “Fire and Rain.” It was, in three words, a baby boomer bonanza.

The origins of the present tour go back to 2007 when the duo reunited for the 50th anniversary celebration of L.A.’s legendary Troubadour club, where they performed together in the early ’70s and which also served as birthplace to practically very notable act and artist to emerge from L.A.’s Laurel Canyon and, for that matter, the concrete canyons of the east coast as well. The concert was recorded for posterity and issued earlier this year as Live at the Troubadour, also inspiring this Troubador road show that began in March in the far east and continues into early July as it works its way toward the Northeast and eventually back out west.

All the more remarkable then that despite several months on the road and a relationship that’s outlasted most marriages — including their own — that this concert seemed as if it was their first, flushed with energy, affection, mutual awe and admiration. The pair walked onto the stage holding hands and exited the same way, and every often they exchanged knowing glances, gave one another a friendly touch, and acted like giddy newlyweds barely able to contain their exhilaration. King, at 68, and Taylor, at 62, displayed an exuberance that performers half their age would be hard-pressed to replicate, dancing around the stage, hopping and bobbing when the music moved them, as it did so often. When King sang her signature “Natural Born Woman,” suffice it to say that Aretha may have claimed it, but King inhabited it. Likewise, when Taylor replayed the autobiographical exorcism that is “Fire and Rain,” the fact that he’s sung it literally every performance and thousands of times was never in evidence. As he finished, he looked as if he was as genuinely moved as the audience.

Never mind then that the musicians were older, in many ways a physical reflection of the older crowd that had come to see them — balding, graying, paunchier around the midsection. They sang as gracefully as they did in their prime, Taylor’s pliable vocals flowing seamlessly around the music and lyrics, King’s sandpapery voice segueing from celebration to sensitivity to smooth harmony. Likewise, the other accompanists  adroitly added the nuances that recreated the original recorded arrangements — including keyboardist Robbie Kondor, singer Kate Markowitz and omnipresent vocalist Arnold McCuller who practically stole the show on the rousing “Shower the People.” (“He sounded good,” Taylor remarked afterwards before adding with a feigned look of resentment, “Maybe too good.”) Not surprising, considering the fact that Kortchmar, Sklar and Blaine, as their band the Section, were playing on practically all of them.

Yet, as fresh and vital as the performers still sounded, their reach-out to the crowd was the element that resonated as much as anything. The two seemed genuinely grateful, not only to each other, but to their fans as well. “Thank you for coming out,” Taylor commented early on, joking, “We had to be here, but you didn’t have to. It wouldn’t have been the same without you. We could have played, but if you weren’t here, something would have been missing.” Later, he thanked the audience again. “We’re grateful for having you as an audience,” he remarked, seemingly caught up in the emotion. “We’re grateful to you for bringing us to this place.” And as they played a final encore, just the two of them, having seemingly decided on the spot to give the crowd one final expression of devotion — a soothing rendition of “You Can Close Your Eyes” which had King sinking her head onto Taylor’s shoulder and nearly seduced by tears — the emotional pull was contagious.

Not that the entire evening was reduced to a wellspring of nostalgia and sentiment — far from it. The rotating stage gave opportunity for all corners of the audience to share a connection with the celebration on stage and stage-side tables and intimate lighting replicated the Troubadour ambience. So too, Taylor in particular has always been a self-effacing entertainer, his rubbery facial features and sly wit belying his image as a tender troubadour. “Now from the sublime to the ridiculous,” he announced after King finished a particularly tender take on her first major hit, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” prior to his taking over the spotlight by mugging his way though his own “Steamroller Blues” while unashamedly juggling every bluesy cliché in the book. Indeed, the intros, most filled with insights and anecdotes about how the songs came into existence, were often as entertaining as the actual renditions. On the namesake of “Machine Gun Kelly”: “His wife henpecked him onto the ‘most wanted’ list.” On “Sweet Baby James”: “In a moment of weakness, my brother Alex and his wife named their new baby after me. So on the way down to see the little varmit, I thought of it as a kind of cowboy lullaby, something Roy Rogers or Gene Autry might sing.”

“When we first wrote out the set list, there was so much material it became a seven-hour show,” Taylor remarked to the delight of the crowd. “The process of dropping songs felt like dropping your kids off at camp.” Nevertheless, with a concert encapsulating nearly 30 classics over the course of just under three hours, it would be hard to muster any complaints. Sure, it could have covered twice as many tunes and easily run to the seven hours originally measured. However as it is, this was indeed the show to see. As much as could be seen when overcome by those tears of joy.

Personal bias: There’s no way not to love these timeless songs, or the gentle disposition of the performers that play them.

Random detail: It was especially touching when King introduced her mother, Broward resident Eugenia Gingold. At 94 years old, she appeared as revved up as the rest of the crowd, waving her arms triumphantly as her image flashed on the overhead monitors. Good genes must run in the family. Read more about her here.

By the way: This was a concert any mother could love, or for that matter, any dad, kid, grandparent and grandkid too.

Sunday, June 6
2010

THE MIAMI HERALD – Review: Carole King, James Taylor rock-a-bye boomers

By Howard Cohen

The second song of the 160-minute Carole King and James Taylor Troubadour Reunion Tour at Sunrise’s BankAtlantic Center Saturday night told the story of a night filled with fond memories and enduring music:

“One more song about moving along the highway / Can’t say much of anything that’s new,” King, 68, sang, her voice a bit raspier, but no less warm and spirited than it was in 1971 when she recorded So Far Away for her landmark Tapestry album.

This was an evening devoted to nostalgia, 28 songs tailor made for warm and fuzzies and reminiscing and it’s playing to packed arenas from Australia to a sold-out North America.

For either King or Taylor to mess with the material and modernize it would be sacrilege. Leave the reinventing to shape shifters like Bowie and Madonna.

These are two icons who deftly and purposely recreate the time in 1970 when the pair co-headlined Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour club after she’d already written a generation’s worth of hits for others with ex-husband Gerry Goffin and he was on the cusp of crafting material that would catapult him to king of the singer-songwriter era.

To haphazardly retool the songs more than 15,000 people came to hear like Fire and Rain, (You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman, Up on the Roof or Country Road would be tantamount to reading the Bible and finding a version that has Adam feeding Eve the apple. Just would not do.

For this tour, the two even went so far as to reunite the same musicians who backed them at the Troubadour and on LPs like Tapestry and Sweet Baby James all those years ago: guitarist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel.

“It’s a genuine, authentic reunion of the original band,” Taylor said, clearly happy to still be in possession of an unchanged voice and passion for the stage. The only thing missing was the hair on his and Kunkel’s heads. Otherwise, fans heard a flawless revisiting of a time long ago when soft rock eased the nation out of the tumultuous 1960s. These songs still feel relevant and calming in these days of oil spills and foreclosures.

“We tried to remember what was on those original set lists when we played the Troubadour — but we can’t,” Taylor, 62, said with a chuckle before introducing the fourth song of the night, a favorite that “probably was in the set,” called Carolina in My Mind.

If anyone stretched a bit, it was King, always the more adventurous songwriter of the duo, as she played with the vocal phrasing on parts of It’s Too Late to meld wonderfully with Sklar and Kortchmar who flirted with lithe jazz in their accompaniment.

King also rewrote some lines in Where You Lead and You’ve Got a Friend to make them South Florida specific. Taylor sometimes stirred the pot a bit as on Shower the People as he had King sing the harmony part his ex-wife Carly Simon sang on the original 1976 hit and let longtime backup vocalist Arnold McCuller take an ovation-worthy solo vocal passage. “That was sounding good — maybe too good,” Taylor teased.

Unlike most star pairings, the King-Taylor chemistry was unmistakable and warm. When one sang their song, the other would sing backup or play as part of the band. Their fondness for each other was aided by their placement on a revolving, central stage that often had Taylor in the curve of King’s piano, allowing the two to make eye contact. King was particularly endearing as she’d gaze with adoration at Taylor, especially during his tender concert-ending ballad, You Can Close Your Eyes.

It was also a night for musical history. After King delivered a rousing read of her 1974 hit Jazzman she joked, “Let’s take you back even further in time — but maybe not to 1903, for our first hit.” She and Taylor then sang a beautiful Will You Love Me Tomorrow, a song King had written in 1960 for the Shirelles, and as Taylor quipped “from the sublime to the ridiculous,” the pair followed with his stomping Steamroller.

Taylor also proved an amusing musical historian by linking her Beautiful with his Shower the People, one gospel in tone, the other easy listening pop. “These are hymns for agnostics,” he teased. “Mine is fuzzy, hers is uplifting, so these belong together.”

The satisfied fans, thousands strong, might well say the same about King and Taylor.

Tuesday, June 1
2010

THE NEW YORK TIMES – Touchstones in Concert, Reweaving Harmonies

PERCHED on the arm of a couch in a hotel room here, James Taylor recalled the first time he heard Carole King sing “You’ve Got a Friend.”

“I stood outside a little dressing room up on the balcony,” Mr. Taylor said, referring to the Troubadour, the Los Angeles club that served as ground zero for the singer-songwriter movement in the early 1970s, “and I just had to find my guitar and figure out how that song went.

I said: ‘She’s written it. That’s ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ right there.’ ”

Mr. Taylor recorded the song, and in 1971 it provided the first and only No. 1 hit of his career. That same year Ms. King included “You’ve Got a Friend” on “Tapestry,” a landmark album that established her as a superstar and went on to sell more than 10 million copies in the United States. Perhaps more important, however, is the song’s enduring theme. As the critic Jon Landau, who would go on to manage Bruce Springsteen, wrote in Rolling Stone, the album’s subject is “the search for lasting friendship, friendship that can be trusted, friendship that can be felt.”

Those words might also serve as the theme of Ms. King and Mr. Taylor’s “Troubadour Reunion” world tour, which will come to Madison Square Garden for three shows this month. Since they hit the road in March, visiting Australia, New Zealand and Japan before arriving in the United States last month, their sets have been stretching close to three hours (including a brief intermission) with the two of them onstage the entire time.

They are performing more than two dozen of their individual hits, while providing harmony vocals and instrumental support for each other (Mr. Taylor on guitar, Ms. King on piano). The core of their band — the guitarist Danny Kortchmar, the bassist Leland Sklar and Russ Kunkel on drums — further rounds out the reunion. All of these musicians played with Ms. King and Mr. Taylor at the moment of their ascent four decades ago. Mr. Kortchmar introduced Mr. Taylor to Ms. King in 1969; the two men first played together in their teens.

Those deep connections have made the tour’s shows something like a Thanksgiving dinner in an Ann Beattie novel. “Tapestry” and Mr. Taylor’s albums “Sweet Baby James” (1970) and “Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon” (1971) are definitive boomer touchstones, and because they capture the collaborative apex of the singers’ interwoven careers, they account for many of the songs in the show. Their fans remain perhaps the last reliable — and dependably solvent — demographic in a music industry that has been hammered into fragments by the Internet. Since the tour arrived in the United States, they have been turning out in force, leaving sold-out arenas and million-dollar-plus grosses in their wake.

“Softer rock doesn’t tend to do well in arenas,” said Gary Bongiovanni of Pollstar, a magazine that tracks the concert industry. “You need something really special to make it work, and that’s these two together.”

At their hotel before a performance in San Jose, Ms. King, 68, and Mr. Taylor, 62, communicate with the ease of old friends. They affectionately defer to each other, careful not to hog the interview spotlight. Wearing a long-sleeve blue T-shirt and black jeans, Mr. Taylor is cerebral and self-effacing. His sentences, lightly honeyed with the drawl of his North Carolina upbringing, meander with professorial grace.

Ms. King, in a sleek black suit, alternates the New Age mysticism of the American West — she has lived in Idaho for many years — with no-nonsense street smarts. However far removed, she’s a Brooklyn girl born and raised, with the accent to prove it. “James says things more quietly,” Ms. King explained at one point. “I gush.”

Ms. King has been a formidable presence on the music scene since, as a teenager, she wrote “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” for the Shirelles in 1960 with her husband at the time, Gerry Goffin. Working primarily with Mr. Goffin, she wrote a staggering number of hits for other artists in the 1960s, including “Up on the Roof,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.” She was reluctant to perform, however, until Mr. Taylor invited her to play piano in his band. He had a hidden agenda. In the middle of his sets, he would bring Ms. King forward to sing a few of her songs.

“It was time for Carole to step into her shoes,” Mr. Taylor said. “That was an exciting thing to see.”

Ms. King said, “James is modestly leaving out that he was the one who made me go forward.”

“To hear him sing ‘Sweet Baby James’ or ‘Something in the Way She Moves,’ ” she added, “I used to stand backstage when I was his piano player while he did an acoustic set by himself, and I would listen and mentally sing the harmonies. I would think, ‘I can just listen to him do that forever and ever.’ ”
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The idea for a collaborative tour first came up in 2007 when Mr. Taylor and Ms. King performed a series of shows together at the Troubadour to commemorate the club’s 50th anniversary. (A live album drawn from those performances currently sits at No. 11 on the Billboard charts.)

Whenever they ran into each other over the years, they often spoke of doing “something” together. Suddenly the time seemed right.

As reunions go, this one is less dramatic than some others from the period. While Ms. King and Mr. Taylor performed and recorded together quite a bit in the early 1970s, they were never formally a duo. They never fell out and never broke up. Most significantly — and highly uncharacteristically for those freewheeling times — they were never lovers, so there was no complicated personal history to resolve. If the tour can be said to have a message, it’s that not everything has to end — or end badly.

“It’s nice to see a man and a woman who have continually respected what they meant to each other professionally,” said Sheila Weller, the author of “Girls Like Us,” a book about Ms. King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. “It’s like the people in ‘The Big Chill’: ‘I will never let you down. No matter where you are, call me and I’ll come.’ ”

The filmmaker Morgan Neville, who is working on a documentary about Ms. King and Mr. Taylor, said: “You almost can’t believe that two people with that much history can still feel that warm toward each other. But it’s genuine, and it comes across onstage. I think that’s a lot of what people are responding to — that rapport. The tour is definitely more than the sum of its parts.”
That much was evident when Ms. King and Mr. Taylor strolled onto the stage smiling, hand in hand, at the HP Pavilion at San Jose. The crowd itself seemed surprised by the depth of feeling the sight of them unleashes, so its greeting started out as polite applause but steadily built into a resounding roar. As the two unfurled a stream of instantly recognizable songs — “So Far Away,” “Carolina in My Mind,” “It’s Too Late” — pictures of them from 40 years ago appeared on screens above the stage. The images were received with the giddy delight — and occasionally tears —of old family photos. Suddenly Mr. Taylor, with his thick, dark hair down to his shoulders, is back to the days when he looked like a brooding young poet; Ms. King, with her soft curls and soulful eyes, is once again a hippie earth mother.

All of this might seem like little more than a warm nostalgic hug were it not for the quality of Ms. King’s and Mr. Taylor’s songs, which have earned each of them a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Then there is the matter of all the blood on the tracks, the inevitable breakage on the trail of their long lives and those of their fans. Mr. Taylor may be a reassuring figure now, but for decades he was a drug addict who hung desperately on the edge of the abyss.

“Lookit, I been in and out of mental institutions, strung out on drugs, and living with friends for the past five years,” Mr. Taylor told The New York Times in 1971. “I’m not strong right now to be blown up to superstar proportions. It may destroy me.”

Both he and Ms. King have endured ravaging divorces and breakups, career ups and downs. Yet here they are, still telling their stories and performing their songs together. They are both grandparents now, and Mr. Taylor is the father of 9-year-old twin boys with his wife, Kim, whom he married in 2001.

“When you reach a certain age, I don’t think anybody escapes unscathed,” Kim Taylor said. “Maybe that’s why his songs have endured, and Carole’s too. I mean, ‘Tapestry’ was so important for me. Those songs were real anchors. I went to a girls’ school, Smith, and every single room you went into, there was that cover of her with the cat and the jeans.”

Nor is the impact of their songs exclusively confined to their demographic. The ferociously contemporary Lady Gaga brought her father to see Ms. King and Mr. Taylor perform in Sydney, Australia, and went backstage with him to meet them. (Lady Gaga’s outfit prompted a question from Mr. Taylor’s son Rufus: “Dad, why is she wearing a rubber bathing suit?”) As they spoke, Lady Gaga began to cry, saying she was overwhelmed to meet two people whose music, particularly “You’ve Got a Friend,” had helped her through adolescence.

It was a scene the two artists have witnessed many times. “We’ve been lucky to have our music be the soundtrack to people’s lives — and, by the way, our own,” Ms. King said.

That sense of a long, rich relationship between the artists themselves, and between the artists and their fans, also lends a certain urgency to the tour. “It’s like we went away and had a lifetime of performing and experience, and now we’re getting together,” Mr. Taylor said. “That’s the energy of a reunion. But I don’t think we would have wanted to wait a whole lot longer than doing it now. This was the time to do it.”

Part of the reason is simply chronology. “I feel gratitude to have the stamina to do this show at 68,” Ms. King said. “Frankly, that was the one thing I was concerned about. I was a little concerned about my vocal stamina, but that seems to be there. But it’s a very high-energy show. I’m doing the Carole King earth-move workout out there.”

Despite interest from promoters to take the tour to Europe and South America, current plans are for it to end in Anaheim, Calif., on July 20.

“Carole said something interesting early on,” Mr. Taylor noted. “She said, ‘Not only do you want to leave the people wanting more, you want to leave yourself wanting more.’ That’s really wise. It’s smart to know when to quit.”

Ms. King added brightly: “But we’re just at the beginning of it right now. We’re really psyched.”

Tuesday, June 1
2010

THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE – A baseball revolution in Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD — As soon as he began singing the first few lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” even some fans in the beer line at Wahconah Park rushed back to the stands to hear “the Berkshires’ own” James Taylor.

Taylor, a Stockbridge resident, strode onto the ballfield Monday afternoon, wearing a Pittsfield Colonials cap and carrying his guitar. After singing the National Anthem to formally open the baseball team’s home season, he hung around, signing autographs and talking with Colonial ballplayers and fans.

“What a great ceremony,” said Shawn Considine of Lenox, whose son, Christopher, works at the park. “I’m feeling very grateful that James Taylor came out and opened the season.”

Taylor’s wife, Kim, and Pittsfield guitarist Billy Keane opened the afternoon with a rendering of “God Bless America.” Keane later returned to render “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning.

“You know, this was a very family-oriented afternoon,” said Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto. “We had James Taylor singing the national anthem, his lovely wife, Kim, singing ‘God Bless America’ and their two sons, Rufus and Henry, were honorary bat boys. That was something [Colonials co-owner] Buddy Lewis planned.”

The day was, in fact, a star-studded experience. In addition to the Taylors and Ruberto, Gov. Deval Patrick and his wife, Diane, were also in attendance.

Patrick was one of several luminaries who tossed out the first pitch. He, however, did not stand in the infield and pitch like some of the rest of the dignitaries. He got on the mound, reared back and delivered a high strike.

“I’m a fair-weather [baseball] fan,” said Patrick. “But something like this, I like a lot. I’m thrilled to be here. I’m thrilled for the families here; thrilled at the investment by the city of Pittsfield. That’s what excites me.”

The crowd was not a sellout, with perhaps 70 percent of the seats filled.

“It’s very family friendly,” said David Esko of Dalton, who was at the park with his young son, Daniel.

Esko has been coming to the ballpark for several years. So far, he said, he was impressed by the park and the team.

“It’s great for families because it’s pretty inexpensive, and great for fans because the caliber of baseball is pretty good. There are some good ballplayers out there.”

Lewis, the team co-owner, later lauded the investment and support from the city. He conceded that some residents “are skeptical about coming out to the ballpark and we understand that. But we know that if we provide a nice facility and an entertaining team, the people will come and they’ll bring their friends.”

Ruberto estimated that Pittsfield has invested more than $750,000 into the park. Ernest Fortini, director of Buildings and Grounds for the city, said that the park now features a new infield, new fences, new foul nets, a new public address system and renovated bleachers in left field.

“But among the biggest investments we’ve made are in the restrooms,” he said.

Indeed, the restrooms, where drainage was an issue for many years, were clean and pleasant.
In addition, said Fortini, the drainage in the parking lot has been greatly upgraded. Ruberto said that while the parking lot is still a work in progress, the city plans to fundraise for a final upgrade.

“The perception that the park and amenities are rundown is now a myth,” Fortini said.

To reach Derek Gentile: [email protected] or (413) 528-3660.

Saturday, May 29
2010

TORONTO SUN – Taylor & King reunion worth the wait

By Jane Stevenson

It took them 40 years to tour together but the wait proved to be worth it.

James Taylor and Carole King, who first performed at the Troubadour in 1970 during King’s breakout solo performance before her 1971 landmark album, Tapestry, reunited for six acclaimed shows in 2007 to celebrate the legendary L.A. club’s 50-year history.

The duo since regrouped this year for the so-called Troubadour Reunion trek – “an intimate and an in the round” affair – whose only Canadian stop was Friday night in front of 18,000 fans at the Air Canada Centre.

Taking the circular, slowly rotating stage in the middle of the arena floor alone, the 62-year-old Taylor and the 68-year-old King held hands and took a bow before being joined by their original 1970 bandmates – bassist Lee Sklar (celebrating a birthday Friday night), guitarist-producer Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, who introduced Taylor and King “In 1903” as Taylor joked, and drummer Russ Kunkel.

“The thing that makes this reunion tour the real deal for me is we’ve got the band, we’ve got the guys,” said Taylor.

Rounding out the lineup was keyboard player Robbie Kondor and backup singers Arnold McCuller, Kate Markowitz and Andrea Zonn (also on violin).

Taylor, on acoustic guitar, was clearly in better voice of the two singers, with his trademark warmth evident on the concert opener Blossom, compared to the weaker-sounding King on piano, on the follow-up So Far Away.

“As you can probably tell, I’m not at full voice tonight,” acknowledged King later in the show.
She eventually gathered strength on Way Over Yonder and Smackwater Jack, the latter for which she joined Taylor on acoustic guitar, happily jamming side by side with him.

But it wasn’t until (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman that King really hit her stride, playfully vocalizing with Kortchmar on his electric guitar before a 20-minute intermission.

She powerfully kicked off the second set with Where You Lead (I Will Follow), and singing – and snuggling – with Taylor on Cryin In The Rain, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, You’ve Got A Friend, Up On The Roof and You Can Close Your Eyes, the latter two during the encores.

The duo was nothing if not approachable and they seemed to be genuinely having fun and affectionate together as Taylor often rubbed the back of King’s head or kissed her forehead
Shared history aside, it helped that they have been on tour together since March in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, before hitting North America in May.

Of the two Taylor is the more seasoned road warrior over the years and did most of the talking and kidding around.

“When Carole and I first sat down to make a set list, it would have been a seven-hour show,” said Taylor. “There were so many songs that we had to pull out of the original set list, it was heartbreaking, like sending the kids off to camp.”

He also operated a tiny music box and made the devil horns sign with one hand as a birthday shout out to Sklar.

Taylor’s song highlights were numerous – Carolina In My Mind, Country Road, Mexico, Shower The People (which saw King join the backup singers including McCuller who delivered a staggering solo), Your Smiling Face, Sweet Baby James, Fire and Rain and How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You (the latter two the biggest crowd pleasers).

“That’s right, Arnold knows how to do it,” said Taylor. “He sounded a little too good.”

Taylor and Kortchmar also showed off their blues guitar chops on Steamroller Blues with Taylor hamming it up by using his guitar as a cane at one point and over-emoting at the end, hiding his face behind his hat in mock shame.

For her part, King consistently radiated health, happiness and a soulful, earthy spirit with a big, broad smile all night long and even kicked up her heels for I Feel The Earth Move towards the end of the second set.

“James inspired me to start writing music and lyrics by myself,” said King, who wrote dozens of hits with then-husband (now ex) Gerry Goffin in the Brill Building for other artists in the ’60s.

RATING: 4 out of 5

SET LIST:
Blossom
So Far Away
Machine Gun Kelly
Carolina In My Mind
Way Over Yonder
Smackwater Jack
Country Road
Sweet Seasons
Mexico
Song of Long Ago/Long Ago and Far Away
Beautiful
Shower the People
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
INTERMISSION
Where You Lead (I Will Follow)
Crying in The Rain
Your Smiling Face
Sweet Baby James
Jazzman
Will You Love Me Tomorrow
Steamroller Blues
It’s Too Late
Fire and Rain
I Feel the Earth Move
You’ve Got a Friend

ENCORE:
Up on the Roof
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)

SECOND ENCORE:
You Can Close Your Eyes

Friday, May 28
2010

GOANDDOMICHIGAN.COM – Concert Reviews: Carole King, James Taylor Bring Troubadour Magic To The Palace

By Gary Graff

AUBURN HILLS — If there was a baby boomer Mount Rushmore, Carole King and James Taylor would certainly be two faces carved into the rock.

Between them, the pair of singer-songwriters have been responsible for a fair share of the lifestyle soundtrack for the ’60s, ’70s and even early ’80s, crafting songs — “You’ve Got a Friend,” “So Far Away,” “Shower the People” and “Fire and Rain” — that have leapt beyond mere radio hits to a more profound stature as campfire favorites, lullabies and even modern hymns. That’s why there was a genuine sense of Event to their Troubadour Reunion Tour stop Thursday night (May 27) at the Palace, where King and Taylor held the boomer-dominated crowd, whose diets now lean more towards Metamucil than Miller, in rapt and reverent attention for two hours and 40 minutes.

It was a rare and special night to be sure, partly due to the repertoire but primarily because King and Taylor did it all together, harmonizing and accompanying each other — with the help of a seven-piece band that included three members of The Section (guitarist Danny Kortchmar, bassist Lee Sklar and drummer Russell Kunkel), who backed each of them on their key, reputation-making albums. That authenticity gave the 28-song show a glow as bright as anything that emanated from the two levels of video screens positioned above the round, rotating stage in the center of the Palace floor, too.

Both performers were in fine voice, with King’s showing a little extra husk that added more soul to her renditions of “So Far Away,” “Smackwater Jack,” “Sweet Seasons,” “It’s Too Late” and a show-stopping version of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” that closed the first half of the concert. Taylor, meanwhile, maintained his role as the clear-voiced innocent on “Blossom,” “Country Road,” “Carolina on My Mind,” “Your Smiling Face” and “Mexico” and even had fun with the otherwise pedestrian blues of “Steamroller.”

The two, although mostly Taylor, offered insightful background and perspective about some of the songs, at one point explaining a pairing of King’s “Beautiful” and his “Shower the People” as “hymns for agnostics.” They also dueted on “Crying in the Rain,” a King co-write that was made famous by the Everly Brothers in 1962, accompanied by just guitar and fiddle, and on “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” which King co-wrote for the Shirelles two years earlier.

They closed the night alone, too, with King’s head resting on Taylor’s shoulder as they sang his “You Can Close Your Eyes.” But anyone still at the Palace was more likely rubbing theirs — in joyful incredulity over what they had just seen.