Saturday, May 15, 2010

James Taylor & Carole King

I was on the fence as to whether to write a review of the recent James Taylor/Carole King concert at the Hollywood Bowl because I thought a lot of my readers might just see them as old geezers. But in light of the current mass hysteria for Betty White, Taylor and King are mere pups.

To love the concert as much as I did considering the ordeal to get there, really says something about how special the evening was.

First off, they sang their hits. I’ve read some reviews that knocked them for not presenting new material and not exploring the current themes we boomers are facing. Who wants that? I spent an hour standing on the 405 Freeway so I could sit under the stars and hear tunes about ageism, downsizing, and caring for parents? No. I want to hear “the Loco-Motion” and “Mexico”.

Yes, the evening was steeped in nostalgia but so what? The music was great then and it’s great now. Name me one Kara DioCuardi song that has the depth and haunting melody of “It’s Too Late” or “Fire & Rain”… or even “the Loco-Motion”.

James Taylor has an absolutely amazing voice. At one time he must’ve swallowed a Stradivarius. He sings as well today as he did thirty years ago. And everything is effortless.

I’ve always loved Carole King. Her vocals weren’t as good but that’s okay because a) the songs themselves were so good, b) the nostalgia factor, and c) who are we kidding? She was never a great singer. Unfortunately, that becomes all the more apparent singing duets with James Taylor.

It was a long show – 2 1/2 hours – but could have been 2 hours longer. They each have such large catalogs. There were favorites that they didn’t get to but maybe they’ll come back next year and do “He Hit Me/It Felt Like a Kiss” (written by Carole King).

The band and singers behind them were, as you’d expect, top of the line. It’s always fun to see Leland Sklar. The way I view the passing of the years is by how much his beard grows from appearance to appearance.

And still an added plus – James Taylor’s wry sense of humor.

If they come through your town treat yourself. The music, the memories – it’s all there. In fact, the only thing missing was the giant cloud of marijuana. Maybe we are getting old.


Sally creeping down the alley said...

Fifty years from now people will still be remembering the songs of James Taylor and Carole King. Nobody will even know anything about the winners or losers of American Idol. I think that says it all.

Laurie Powers said...

Oh I wish I could have gone. Tapestry is one of my favorite albums of all time.

Kevin Arbouet said...

The beginning of the article truly drove me nuts because this is a common problem among people who have lived in LA for any period of time:

Why, WHY, would you ever take the 405?! It will ALWAYS be quicker to take the local street routes. LA has that three rights make a left syndrome.

By Ken Levine said...

I was taking the shuttle and that's the route they took. Wasn't my call. I would have taken surface streets, used Beverly to get across town.

Simon H. said...

Both artists are great. My mom used to play the "Tapestry" record almost every day when I was growing up. I loved it when I was 9, hated it when 16 and into a more rebellious phase and style of music, and then came around to it again in my mid 20s. Yes, Carole King doesn't have the greatest voice(neither did Frank Sinatra for that matter), but she made up for with a certain soulfulness and heartfelt quality that few artists today could even hope to match. As for James Taylor, he's just damn good.

Omnibabe said...

I saw the Simon & Garfunkel reunion tour... with the Everly Brothers... and I can assure you the last thing I wanted to hear was new stuff. And I was not disappointed.

Hmmmm... King and Taylor will be at the United Center in Chicago in July. I may just have to buy a pair of tickets...

Brooklyn Gal said...

It was an evening for young and old. I went with my late 20's daughter. She knew every word of both Carole and James' songs. When I asked her how she knew them...she said "I don't know, I just do". Classic music from classy artists will always prevail. What a night!

Mary Stella said...

Thanks, Ken. I've seen James Taylor in concert and it is one of my favorite music experiences. (After the 14 or so Springsteen/E Street Band concerts.) I need to Google and see if Taylor/King will perform in So FL.

Roger Owen Green said...

Sounds like a great show.

But I HATE He Hit Me, even when I first heard it as a kid. Even then, I thought the message was crap.

El Lay Dave said...

I saw there concert last night and it was a fun and charming show. "swallowed a Stradivarius" is a nice phrase indeed Ken, but the best description I ever read of Taylor's voice was "like molten silver".

I must admit that I am getting old; this is the fourth consecutive concert I have attended headlined by sexagenarians.

Regarding new material, with one of them headlining there's room for that, but with these two headliners and their ridiculously rich repertoires, not a chance.

Bonus, I didn't care about the usual human herd and the traffic exiting the bowl; if you aren't mellow after a Taylor/King concert, you never will be.

A. Buck Short said...

If we go to see the guy again after 30 years, can you guarantee I’ll get laid this time? Frankly, you guys had me at Jason Robards and Barry Gordon. Lemme guess, one of the duets was "You’ve Got a Friend?"

In the early 70’s my wife and I went to one of those student union type concerts in the gym (or was it “field house?”) at Boston University’s Sargent College. In either case I remember the butt-hostile bleacher seating.

The headliner, the crowd was there to see was some group whose members I may now know the names of if reminded, covering “Season of the Witch.” I mean the crowd of primarily students really wanted to see these guys.

An opening band, given the opportunity for some exposure, was therefore not terribly well received. When a second opening act -- a lanky, quirky, young, blond longhaired guitarist -- was trotted out to further delay the appearance of the audience’s raison de prĂ©sence, it was to a chorus of boos. Not exactly an encouraging moment for an unknown performer of maybe 20-22, even though the introduction mentioned in passing he had a brother who had achieved some success.

Livingston Taylor sounded not unlike the brother and didn’t have to get very far into “Carolina Day”, before everybody realized this would not be just another filler act. Leaving to a certain degree of adulation. Surprising and turning an audience around like that was so magical, cinematic, and uplifting, I often still find myself going back to Sargent College in my mind.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Sorry that I missed them this time around. I bet they sounded just as great as they did when I saw them together at the Long Beach arena in 1971. Only then, the 'cloud of marijuana' DID prevail.

benson said...

Yours was a much better nostalgia experience than mine. I took my teenagers (per their request) to see Alice Cooper, who was great, but my first real in your face realization that my generation now looks like a bunch of geezers. Then another time I had to deliver some tickets for a hair band reunion tour. You ain't lived til you've seen some age 50+ biker chicks with gray crew cuts and leather vests showing off their tattooed arms. (Ee-wwww)

YEKIMI said...

They're coming here to Northeast Ohio but I guess I won't be seeing them. Quicken Loans Arena is the worst place on this side of the galaxy to see ANY concert. Besides I got caught sneaking Metamucil into the Everly Brothers concert I went to years agoand they detained me for hours.

Max Clarke said...

Good review, glad you wrote it. Glad you survived the bus ride.

James Taylor did a good job a couple of years ago when he appeared on Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion." The show was broadcast from the Berkshires, or someplace near JT's home.

As for Carole King, I still recall the morning a fellow student who worked at the campus radio station told me about Carole King. This was around 1972. The student had listened to an advance copy of "Tapestry", and she said it was going to be big. That was the only time she ever praised an artist, and she was perfectly right about "Tapestry."

What impressed me about Carole King was the same thing that stood out with Ellie Greenwich. They held their own writing songs in New York when men ran the show.

Tom Quigley said...

My first memory of Carole King was "It Might as Well Rain Until September" back around 1962 or '63 (although she was also writing hits for other artists at that time); then, nothing until 1971 and TAPESTRY. In the meantime, James Taylor had exploded onto the scene (well, "exploded" in a sense as only James Taylor could, like a sunflower opening up at daybreak) with "Fire and Rain" and his SWEET BABY JAMES album... Over the years as I've gotten older and mellower (I guess) so has their music seemed to... James Taylor's music is the kind of stuff you could listen to in the midst of a thunderstorm, and it would have the power to calm Mother Nature down... Wish they were going to be playing somewhere near where I am... Apart from the IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD scenario on the 405, sounds like you had a great evening, Ken.

Debby G said...

I saw Heart in concert last year and they were great. Ann Wilson's voice was still golden and Nancy Wilson looked fantastic. I want the number of her plastic surgeon.

Some people did light up at the concert, but I bet it was medically necessary for their glaucoma.

The best part of the concert: Sitting (at our age, we didn't stand) in the audience among the canes, walkers, and oxygen tanks, I felt really young.

(I forgot to mention after your Mother's Day post, yay for your wife for spelling her name correctly.)

Jonathan said...

So nice to see a mention of Leland Sklar. I once made a total fool of myself in his presence because I couldn't believe that a player of his stature would be gracious enough to reach out to a 22 year-old kid impersonating a serious musician. But he did. And I was reduced to a blathering idiot (where I've remained ever since).

benson said...

@Debby G:

We saw Heart open for Journey last year, and you're absolutely right about the Wilson sisters. Ann can still belt it out at 59.

And the Phillipine karaoke singer fronting Journey is amazing. He sounds more like Steve Perry than Steve Perry.

hezron said...

i am number 1 fan of james taylor.
so wonderful voice

l.a.guy said...

James Taylor...must’ve swallowed a Stradivarius.

That reminds me of one of the best lines I ever heard on SNL. A John Lovitz character tells an awful night club performer:

"You couldn't sing if you had Billie Holiday stuck in your throat."

I also repeat my recommendation from a couple of days ago, if you can't get enough of James Taylor One Man Band is a great concert DVD.

jbryant said...

Simon H: You're probably correct in saying that Frank Sinatra didn't have the greatest voice. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble thinking of a greater one. Little help?

J S Swanson said...

Ken, I saw them Sat night & I wish I could've put this review as eloquently as you. The only thing I can add was that seeing thousands of mostly AARP members rising to their feet a half a dozen times in the 2nd act for music 50, 40, 30 years old was truly a testament to their artistry. BTW- Gerry Goffin was in attendance last night, too.

Frasier Fan said...

Going to see them next Monday (5-24) in Rosemont, IL. Can't wait.

Haven't heard a bad review yet. Of course anyone who would think to give James Taylor a bad review doesn't know nothin' about nothin!

Jewlsdeluxe said...

I couldn't name you one Kara DioGuardi song. Period.

Ken, I'm really happy to hear you enjoyed the show. Sounds like a winner, the trip to the bowl notwithstanding. I saw Peter Gabriel there earlier this month. One of the best shows I've ever seen. Definitely in my top 10, so I guess the magic of the Hollywood Bowl was still working.

MrEd said...

Thanks for the shout-out to Leland Sklar. I had the pleasure of working with James Taylor way back 1984 in a rehearsal for his tour, and Leland was his bass player. During the load-out, Leland was right there with us grunts packing up amps, mixing boards, and speakers. I was so scared that I would drop something on his hands and he would never play again. What a great guy.

magical_m said...

I was lucky enough to see their show here in Melbourne a few months ago - it was like watching a masterclass in music. So amazing, so gracious and so happy to share their amazing gifts with us.

Everyone walked out of there smiling, happy and talking to complete strangers about what a fabulous show it was.

I hope they keep touring and spreading the love for many years to come!

Bob said...

Having watched the Troubadour DVD and read your review, I'm looking forward to seeing them in a few weeks.

The draw for me is as much or more the musicians touring with them - the same ones who recorded both "Sweet Baby James" and "Tapestry". Watching Danny Kortchmar (guitar), Lee Sklar (bass) and Russ Kunkel (drums) is worth the price of admission alone.


Holt said...

In 1970, when I was three, my parents put our VW bus on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard and I sat on the roof of a free outdoor concert by JT. I do actually remember pieces of it, I really do; it goes down as my first concert.

Thanks to my dad, I grew up listening to CSN&Y, Eagles, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor -- something I never thought to overtly thank him for, but an invaluable gift.

I saw JT 4 times while attending University of Vermont and y'know what blew me away besides his incredible voice? His wit and his energy -- this guy shines in the spotlight performing - doing what he can do, like no other. Michael Jordan, A-Rod, Tom Brady et al wish they could be as good at their game as he is at his art.

My dad passed away last December at the too early age of 65, but he left me with more than he'll ever know.

Terry M said...

Great article- thanks.
I just saw the concert last night here in Detroit. I've seen JT many times (HUGE fan, here)but never CK, let alone the two of them together. I'd expected to see some sappy sentimental concert but wow, was I wrong.

In fact, I'd have to say that this might have been the best concert I've ever attended. And that's saying a lot- I've been to many.

There wasn't an "off" moment the entire 2 1/2 hours. James and Carole seemed to be absolutely loving the whole thing and they were extremely gracious in showing adulation of the audience and giving credit to their supporting musicians/singers.

This was more than nostolgia; this was witnessing masters at work.

If they by chance are coming to your town, don't think twice: GO.