Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Carole King and James Taylor Troubadour Reunion

LOCATION: Sydney Entertainment Centre

DATE: Tuesday 6 April, 2010

WITH: Vince and Nolene

I lived and breathed with these amazing musicians last night and it was beyond magnificence.

To be honest, when Vince originally asked if I would like to attend this all those months ago, I did hesitate. I have always loved the songs of Carole King and indeed her singing but tended to prefer others singing her songs; and James Taylor I could take or leave and the tickets were insanely expensive. However I did have Carole King's latest (2007?) album of live songs and it just made me smile and I had recently seen a live show Taylor had done recently and his warmth and humour amused me greatly. And who can knock back amusement and smiles along with songs you know and love???

I am so, so, so pleased I decided to go to this!!! I went in with no expectations but hoped to hear One fine day. I love the opening piano hook and it is a great song (although The Chiffons do sing it much better than King) and they did not do it, but I did not mind. The night was pure magic.

Both Taylor and King were on stage together the entire time, about an hour the first half, a short 20mins break and then at least another 90mins, maybe more with encore after encore. I have been searching the net all day for a set list, but to no avail, yes the concert was last night, but I have a small recollection of order and probably only remember half the songs - this says more about my shocking short term memory than the concert of course. Mind you I could have been like the loser in front of me, spending more time on his memeallaboutmephone...oops I mean iphone, but then he probably has the set list today :)

So, it was mostly Carole on piano and Taylor on guitars, 1 electric and 1 acoustic, both ordinary looking, and he played incredibly well as you would expect. I read somewhere once that when guitarists keep changing their guitars it is more about look at what a wonderful guitar collection I have and maybe you will not realise I am not so good at playing, that amused me! Taylor was the antithesist of this. They were backed by the band that played with them at the Troubadour all those years ago; Danny Kortchmar on guitar (amazing), Leland Sklar on bass and Russell Kunkel on drums. This familiarity helped enhance the music. There was another keyboardist and three backing singers. The stage was spare, the lighting just right and occasionally the odd 'slide' with images or photos. See, in this cookie cutter world of image and technology, this is most unusual. Let's face it when you have their talent, looks, image and the cover of high drama is not needed!!

Seeing Taylor and King perform together was powerful, these are people who know each other very well, loved being around each other, meld easily into one when singing and just appreciate and are in awe of each other at the same time.

And James (in his early 60s) looked gorgeous, that smooth voice has not changed a bit over the years, he might have lost his hair (who cares!) but that face and those beautiful eyes shone through. His grace and humour was warm and welcomed, with funny insights, comments and love for his audience, band members and of course Carole. Someone yelled out "I love you James" and he replied he loved us all too and I thought to myself, hmmmm, thank you!!!

But Carole - for me - stole the show, in her late 60s (68 I believe) she looked fabulous and natural and was having a blast on stage. Her voice was a little more gravely than when she was younger, but to me, this gave her an edge of knowing and stunning that only enhanced her music. The smile on her face never left, she was loving every single minute and so was I. When she sung I was in the palm of her hand and realised although her voice may not be as good as Aretha, The Shirelles and all those fabulous people she wrote for, her interpretations (that only she would know best, having written the song and all!!!) made the songs all the more richer, and hearing them live was like hearing them for the very first time.

I do remember the evening started with Taylor's Blossom, he also sang favs such as Carolina in my mind, Fire and rain, Sweet baby James, How sweet it is to be loved by you, Mexico, Steamroller, Copperline. His playing and phrasing were sublime and smooth, he enjoyed playing the tunes and chatting to the audience and band about them in between. He was humbly amusing and quite witty, something a little unexpected I think.

Carole had a grand time, she belted them out, and was awe inspiring. As laid back as James was she was right there and in your face, this worked well. Although she also spoke to us between songs, she had less to say and let's face it when you begin a song with I wrote this and it was covered by The Beatles, what more can you say? That song was Chains and a perfect example of the type of song she writes, the audience rocked out with her. Her songs ranged from the ones she wrote for others and the big hits. Her range, although known, was beyond amazing, the woman is a musical genius. She sung I feel the earth move, It's too late, Smackwater Jack, Sweet Seasons, So far away and Beautiful. Sweet seasons and It's too late were standouts, love the piano riff in the later and the rhythm and movement of the other.

When Carole sang a song James played and sung back up and vice versa. But, some songs were done as duets and they were show stealing. Carole's first hit, Will you still love me tomorrow, was beautifully sung, as was an intimate version of the Everly Brothers (also written by Carole) Crying in the rain - James on guitar and Carole on a stool next to him, snuggled up close...sigh! They also did Up on the roof, reworked as they both had done differing versions of it and ended with a bizarre version of Locomotion. To be honest this was the weakest link of the evening and a shame to end it there. I think it was because of Kylie, in fact when she mentioned another song she had written was covered by Kylie Minogue a collective groan was heard through the audience, however it was a bit of fun and for a song originally written for Little Eva, the oldies in their 60s rocked it out!!!

But the standouts of the evening - for me - were 2 songs I kind of thought (before the concert) I could take or leave. They are indeed GREAT songs, but you know sometimes you just hear a song way too many times to appreciate any more. That's how I felt about these songs until last night and I am not too old or ashamed to say both brought to tears and they both certainly gaves me shivers - you know the right kind, when something touches your very soul and gives you meaning and hope!!!

The first was You've got a friend, originally written by Carole, but given to James and he made it his own. Listening to their duet of it towards the end of the evening was insightful, touching and beautiful. The sentiment of the lyrics and simplistic tune, overdone for all these years suddenly seemed fresh and new and full respect and understanding was renewed.

The other was fairly early in the show, (You make me feel like) A natural woman. It was a powerful moment. Originally written for Aretha Franklin, whose version is amazing, this more laid back version, seemed to speak to me specifically last night. I heard the lyrics like I had never heard them before and they just sung to me, man, I want some of what ever (or whoever) she was having when she wrote that, oh yeah!!!!!!! The lyrics to the 2 verses of that song are perfection, anyway, without getting too personal, I was incredibly moved by her performance of that.....and isn't that what live performance is about. I am so pleased I had the opportunity to epxerience these magnificent musicians and the magic they created on stage last night.