MASSLIVE.COM – James Taylor, Carole King dazzle Mohegan Sun crowd with ‘Troubadour Reunion’
By Kevin O’Hare
UNCASVILLE, CONN. – With the down economy and a whole lot of people with a lot less disposable income, there aren’t many tours raking in big bucks at the box office so far this year.
One of the exceptions is the nostalgia-filled “Troubadour Reunion” featuring veteran songwriters James Taylor and Carole King.
The two have been drawing capacity crowds in practically every market they’ve played and Saturday proved to be no exception as they performed before a capacity crowd during the first of a two-night stand at the Mohegan Sun arena.
Delivering a truckload of hits over the course of two sets and approximately two-and-a-half hours on stage, Taylor and King showed plenty of reasons why they’re the perfect match for this summer. The inspiration for the tour came from a 2007 reunion the pair staged at West Hollywood’s fabled Troubadour, celebrating their own legendary 1970 and 1971 shows at the venue.
As Taylor told the tale Saturday, when they started rehearing for this tour earlier this year, their initial set list was six hours long. That’s not surprising considering the extraordinary depth of their respective back catalogs. They did manage to whittle it down though and for the tour they have even re-assembled the band that played those original shows at the Troubadour 40 years ago, including bassist Leland Sklar, drummer Russ Kunkel and hotshot guitarist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, the latter who has been one of Taylor’s closest friends since their pre-fame days in the late 1960s playing together in the Flying Machine.
Together with three backing vocalists and additional keyboards, they performed on a slowly revolving round stage set in the middle of the arena. The set-up was made more intimate with the inclusion of a nightclub-style special seating area that surrounded the stage. The show opened with Taylor singing lead and King taking the harmonies on his “Something in the Way she Moves,” which was followed by King’s “So Far Away,” before a rockin’ take of the Kortchmar-penned Taylor hit “Honey Don’t Leave L.A.”
It seemed like the singers were keenly aware of the large venues they are playing on this tour and while they are primarily known as balladeers they succeeded in delivering numerous uptempo tracks during the night.
Taylor’s voice has aged almost perfectly. King’s was always a bit raspy, but it’s gotten raspier with the years and her range is fairly limited on the high end. Nevertheless it was a joy to hear them together again, and to be reminded in particular of the amazing scope of King’s material. Among the first set highlights were King’s “Smackwater Jack,” which featured her switching from piano to guitar to join Taylor in powering the band; Taylor’s “Mexico;” and what he referred to as their “hymns for agnostics” – King’s “Beautiful” and Taylor’s “Shower the People.”
Her classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” which was a huge hit for Aretha Franklin, closed the first set to a standing ovation, and they returned 20 minutes later, opening strong with King’s ever-gorgeous “Been to Canaan” and a harmony-filled duet of “Crying in the Rain” yet another King song, that in this case was a massive hit for the Everly Brothers.
Taylor was extremely animated throughout the show but particularly when he tore through “Steamroller Blues,” trading guitar fire with Kortchmar. King turned in one of her best vocals of the night on “Jazzman,” and her duet with Taylor on her 1960 hit for the Shirelles, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” triggered a lengthy and well deserved ovation. Obligatory hits such as “Fire and Rain,” “It’s Too Late,” “I Feel the Earth Move” and “You’ve got a Friend,” filled the latter part of the second set. They returned to encore with Taylor and King trading off verses in “Up on the Roof,” before a joyous “How Sweet it is (To Be Loved By You),” and the finale of “You Can Close Your Eyes,” which no doubt left a lasting image for many in the crowd of King resting her head on Taylor’s shoulder while they sang together.