Review: Carole King, James Taylor

Last updated 12:14 11/04/2010

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Carole King and James Taylor played Auckland's Vector Arena in their first set of global gigs together in nearly 40 years. Reviewer William Mace was there.

Carole King and James Taylor
Where: Vector Arena, Auckland
When: Saturday, April 11

Being a child of the 1980s, it was a tad surprising that a rousing rendition of The Locomotion ended an evening with two of musical history's biggest songwriters.

At first it was odd, but considering the two-hour musical journey I'd just been on I wasn't surprised to discover  Carole King was responsible for writing a pop hit I'd always associated with Kylie Minogue.

King stomped the stage and tossed her own curly blond hair as she claimed the song back in front of a packed and fully satisfied Vector Arena crowd.

King and then-husband Gerry Goffin wrote the original in 1962 and for much of the audience this fact would have been well known, with most turning up to reconnect with the iconic songs of their more youthful days of the 60s and 70s - and reconnect they did.

James Taylor on the other hand announced he had a "somewhat cloudy memory" of the 1960s. But familiarly suit-jacketed and capped, Taylor's amnesia belies his ability to take the audience to exactly where he was when he wrote songs like Carolina In My Mind, Country Road and Copperline.

Eventually he rolled up his sleeves and de-capped to show a performer immensely comfortable in the limelight.

The pair, travelling together on the global Troubador Reunion Tour 40 years after first playing at the Troubador club in Los Angeles, spurred each other on throughout the evening.

They alternated between Taylor's stripped-back folky ballads and King's rollicking sing-along hits backed by their original Troubadour band - The Section, featuring guitarist Danny "Kooch" Kortchmar, hirsute bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Russell Kunkel.

In general though, the highlights came with King and Taylor coordinating their contrasting vocal harmonies into heart-warming, time-tested melodies.

Much of my experience of King had been hits from her 1970 album Tapestry played loud - and sung even louder - by my mother, sisters and cousins throughout my childhood.

Despite being the youngest among the 10,000 fans there, hearing King's distinctive rasp belt out It's Too Late, Way Over Yonder and I Feel The Earth Move live in concert had the same nostalgic effect for me as it did for the older set. It might be surprising to some that King's voice can still see out a more-than two hour performance.

While she had help from Taylor and some extremely talented backing vocalists, King doesn't step down from her characteristic vocal statements, especially in the songs she wrote for herself. Natural Woman was of course a crowd-pleaser, although I found it a tad ironic that many of the "natural women" in the audience were forced to duck out before the song finished to beat the intermission queue for the toilets.

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The intermission itself seemed a source of humiliation for James Taylor who declared he and King didn't need one and would be backstage merely staring at the clock for 20 minutes.

When the duo did take the stage again, King leant her head on Taylor's shoulder for the duet Crying In The Rain - a King song which Taylor had once covered with Art Garfunkel.

After a Hi-De-Ho from King and a cowboy lullaby - Sweet Baby James - from Taylor, came another highlight: Another captivating duet covering King's first ever radio hit, initially performed by the Shirelles in 1960, Will You Love Me Tomorrow.

King recalled hearing it for the first time over the car stereo of her '56 Mercury but the down-tempo of this redux suited the melancholy of the song to the ground, and Taylor's warm harmonies plucked the heart strings as only he can.

The pair shared a long moment at the end of the song soaking up the crowd's admiration, before Taylor and guitarist "Kooch" Kortchmar launched into Steamroller.

This had Taylor playing the role of a haggard old blues man despite admitting to being "a pimply little snot" when he wrote the song. Magical renditions of Fire & Rain and You've Got A Friend, before an encore of four feel-good numbers, including How Sweet It Is, had the house on its feet and clapping in time.

While the earth may not have shaken as it might've 40 years ago, Auckland folk fans will still be loving this concert tomorrow - and for years to come.

* What did you think of the show? Post your comments below.

- Stuff

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