July 18, 2010 | « back

OTTAWA CITIZEN – King, Taylor still got a friend, or two: Summer concert tour proves duo’s enduring popularity

When a James Taylor/Carole King co-headlining Troubadour Reunion tour was announced last winter, the concert industry reacted with the sort of laid-back reserve befitting the two mellow-rock icons. Few predicted that arenas full of smiling, dancing, sometimes weeping baby boomers — and their kids and grandkids — would blow up the box office in a summer that has seen its share of bad news for the touring business.

In an era of production bombast and fleeting popularity, a couple of sexagenarian singer-songwriters with classic songbooks put together a warm and intimate show and ended up with the surprise hit tour of the summer. Loyal fans wanted to be part of this one-time-only event, recession be damned. Not only has the tour grossed a remarkable $58 million, but the good vibes, in ’70s parlance, created by the duo’s pairing has provided Concord Records with a hit project in King and Taylor’s Live at the Troubadour CD/DVD (from the 2007 club shows that ultimately spawned the tour), portions of which have become popular programming for PBS.

“Essentially, a tour runs on hits and people’s emotional connection with the material,” Taylor says. “That’s the lifeblood of this thing, how people are emotionally connected to the material that Carole and I are doing, what it means personally in their lives.”

Though putting together Taylor, 62, and King, 68 — artists whose careers have been intertwined, but had not played live together since the early ’70s — looks like a great idea on paper, but so do a lot of tour concepts.

Asked why this tour outperformed its expectations, Sam Feldman, who manages Taylor with Michael Gorfaine, emphasizes the importance of “two of the world’s most iconic artists” joining forces. “Carole and James personify a time in music that had a massive emotional impact on the biggest segment of the population,” he says.

“It’s more than nostalgia for a particular act, or an album or two,” Los Angeles Times critic Ann Powers says. “It’s nostalgia for a moment, when people felt hopeful and there was a lot of possibility. And it’s not like going to a Rolling Stones concert, where you feel, ‘Wow, in my youth I was so wild, and look at me now, I need a hip replacement.’ It’s a gentle trip back. It’s a hug, not a strut.”