July 12, 2010 | « back

STL TODAY – Nostalgia works King and Taylor

By Daniel Durchholz

Sometimes it’s all right to look back.

Saturday’s Carole King/James Taylor concert at Scottrade Center was nostalgic to its very core. Every one of the more than two dozen songs the pair performed over the course of 2½ hours dated from the 1970s, or earlier.

And yet, the show was warm, tuneful and intimate in a way that few performers can manage in an arena.

The tour is a celebration of the 40th anniversary of King and Taylor’s initial meeting at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, a Mecca for singer/songwriters. It was there that he heard her perform her song “You’ve Got a Friend,” which he covered and turned into a No. 1 hit. She was already a successful Brill Building songwriter but was encouraged by him to perform her own material. The result was her landmark “Tapestry” album.

On Saturday, they shared the stage for the show’s entirety, taking turns in the spotlight and backing each other up. In between songs, Taylor played the jocular host, claiming they were trying to recreate their original set list “from 1903” and saying that hirsute bassist Lee Sklar looked “like he wandered out of the woods.”

The songs they played remain so instantly recognizable that applause greeted the first notes of nearly every one. Taylor rolled out favorites like “Carolina in My Mind,” “Sweet Baby James” and “Fire and Rain,” while King offered “So Far Away,” “Smackwater Jack” and “It’s Too Late.”

Some of the songs were creatively paired. As they played her “Song of Long Ago” back to back with his “Long Ago and Far Away,” King noted the similarities in style and substance. Taylor, meanwhile, claimed that he classifies King’s “Beautiful” and his own “Shower the People” as “hymns for agnostics.”

Taylor was the show’s more assured performer, but he constantly deferred to King’s talent as a writer, interjecting the refrain “and then she wrote…” between versions of her songs that were made hits by others, including “Crying in the Rain” (the Everly Brothers) and “Hi-De-Ho” (Blood, Sweat & Tears). And while King’s vocals faltered occasionally, she stole the show with a triumphant take on “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and an ebullient (and downright aerobic) “I Feel the Earth Move.”

They traded verses on the inevitable set closer, “You’ve Got a Friend,” a reminder that, in their case, the promise of the song came true: King and Taylor have seen successes and setbacks in their lives and careers, but their friendship has lasted this long. The music they made will last even longer.