June 16, 2010 | « back

NY DAILY NEWS – Carole King and James Taylor Keep Hummin’ at Madison Square Garden

By Jim Farber

On the surface, it didn’t sound terribly rare.

A concert featuring two of the world’s most familiar superstars – Carole King and James Taylor – the first of whom tours frequently, the second of whom plays relentlessly.

Each would be performing songs spun daily, if not hourly, somewhere on the radio dial.

Yet, this new joint tour between Taylor and King, which stopped by the Garden last night, has struck something deep in the boomer generation’s soul. It’s one of the most successful, and buzzed about, tours of the year. And last night showed why.

For one thing, the paring of these two brings them back to a pivotal point in their lives – and in the culture’s.

It’s a re-imagining of their very first shows together from 1970, when Taylor was just breaking, and King was about to morph from a behind-the-scenes player into the hippie earth mother icon of her time.

Together, they helped create the quiet revolution of singer-songwriters that dominated the start of the ’70s.

To stress their connection, the two stars remained on stage together for the entire show, trading harmonies and, at times, seeming to play as much to each other as to the audience.

For a deeper bond, the tour finds King and Taylor employing the same attuned backing band they used at those 40-year-old shows, including drummer Russ Kunkel, bassist Lee Sklar, and guitarist Danny Kortchmar.

The musicians’ rapport brought a special warmth to a tour that’s about precisely that. It didn’t hurt that Taylor has lost none of his diamond-hard diction, or his resonant vibrato, over the decades.

While King has gained some gravel in her voice, and lost some of her ability to sustain a note, that only added to the character of a singer whose voice has always had more to do with exuding a sense of sisterly protection than with displaying great skill or range.

Of course, the hits came non-stop, from his stalwart “Fire and Rain” to her song of first possible love, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

Understandably, the night’s 29 song repertoire stalled stubbornly in the stars’ prime period (1970 to ’72).

Yet the mood they created wasn’t entirely nostalgic. Songs of such melodic perfection, and tailored with such lyrical care, can’t be contained by any era.

Also, watching them performed by these two singers, so far down the line, turned their main themes of loyalty and endurance into something you could see.

If hits like “So Far Away” or “Fire and Rain,” couldn’t be more common in their exposure, the connection that flowed between the stars last night transcended boomer cliches and made you wish these two singers would keeping playing together just as long as they, and we, shall live.