Like millions of others around the world, I had a copy of Carole King’s landmark Tapestry album amongst my record collection. And, like millions of others around the world, I played it over and over again, memorising each and every word to each and every song. And, again, like millions of others around the world, I grew up listening to such haunting James Taylor classics as ‘Fire and Rain’. Two legendary superstars whose music formed an integral part of my life’s soundtrack and whom I never thought I would have the opportunity to see perform individually, let alone on the same bill. But I finally had that chance on Wednesday night when these two iconic performers weaved their musical magic over a packed house at Brisbane’s Entertainment Centre.
Both artists were on stage together for the entire show, taking only a twenty minute break between two sets, both of which were overflowing with their classic hits. The show opened with the ballad, ‘Blossom’, sung by James Taylor, followed by King’s ‘So Far Away’. Seated at the black piano, the singer mesmerised the audience with her strong, husky voice, contrasting nicely with Taylor’s softer vocals. For the foot-stomping ‘Smackwater Jack’, King strapped on a guitar and moved around the stage in high heels that, frankly, scared the living daylights out of me! But, to her credit, she did it effortlessly. No mean feat at the age of 68 - or younger, for that matter!
The first set also included Taylor’s ‘Carolina In My Mind’, ‘Country Road’ and ‘Your Smiling Face’ as well as King’s ‘Beautiful’, ‘Where You Lead’, and ‘Way Over Yonder’, closing with her stirring rendition of Aretha Franklin’s ‘(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman’.
Much of the talking was left to Taylor, who radiated an aura of humbleness that was very refreshing in these days of demanding divas and over-inflated egos. The singer took the time to explain the background of the songs, the story behind his first meeting with King and the self-evident admiration he still has for his co-collaborator after all these years. They were backed by their original band members who joined them on stage at the Troubadour when the two singers first performed there in 1970 and again to celebrate the famed venue’s 50th anniversary in 2007. That original band featured bass player Leland Sklar, drummer Russel Kunkel and, on guitar, Danny Kortchmar.
Highlights of the second set included some of the pair’s biggest hits, such as Taylor’s catchy folk lullaby, ‘Sweet Baby James’, the haunting ‘Fire and Rain’, ‘Mexico’ and his self-confessed parody on the blues, ‘Steamroller’. And, from King, we were entranced by her classic songs like ‘Jazzman’, ‘It’s Too Late’ and ‘I Feel the Earth Move’. But, without a doubt, it was when the pair joined forces to sing duets on such songs as ‘Crying in the Rain’, (written by King and Howard Greenfield for The Everly Brothers and later recorded by James Taylor as a duet with Art Garfunkel), the very beautiful ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ and closing the set with, arguably, the most moving song of the night, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’. Written by Carole, this song not only appears as a track on her Tapestry album but was also recorded by Taylor and became a No. 1 hit for the singer.
Before leaving the stage, to possibly the most overwhelming standing ovation I’ve ever witnessed, the performers took the time to sign mementos for fans lucky enough to be near the stage.
King and Taylor returned to an appreciative crowd who continued to cheer them on as they launched into their encore, starting with ‘Up On The Roof’. Taylor’s popular hit song of the 70’s, ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)’ was definitely a crowd favourite, followed by ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’ and the finale for the night was an extended version of ‘Locomotion’, a song written by King and Gerry Goffin for Little Eva in the 60’s. The diminutive singer was clearly having the time of her life as she danced from one end of the stage to the other. And the crowd was loving every minute of it!
Even after three hours, it felt as though the evening was over far too soon. Both Carole King and James Taylor have a reputation for giving a brilliant performance so I always knew this concert would be something special but Wednesday night’s show exceeded all my expectations. I have two more words for you: simply brilliant!
Reviewed by: Sharyn Hamey