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
So Far Away
Machine Gun Kelly
Carolina In My Mind
Way Over Yonder
Song of Long Ago/Long Ago and Far Away
Shower the People
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Where You Lead (I Will Follow)
Crying in The Rain
Your Smiling Face
Sweet Baby James
Will You Love Me Tomorrow
It’s Too Late
Fire and Rain
I Feel the Earth Move
You’ve Got a Friend
Up on the Roof
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)
You Can Close Your Eyes