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In concert: Carole King and James Taylor at Verizon Center

ralph stanleyCarole King and James Taylor turned back the clock Tuesday at Verizon Center. (All photos by Nikki Kahn/TWP)

By Dave McKenna

DuPont’s best and brightest couldn’t produce better chemistry in a lab than that James Taylor and Carole King come up with on stage.

They're hardly alike. Appearing together at the Verizon Center on Tuesday, King, now 70 68, was raucous beyond belief, while Taylor, at 62, exuded superhuman serenity. Fire and rain, one might say. The old friends are touring to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their first show together, a gig at the Troubador in Los Angeles. The singers are backed on the road by, as Taylor put it, all "the original cats" that appeared with them in 1969 in L.A. -- a supergroup including Leland Sklar on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums, and Danny Kortchmar on guitar.

To kick off the nearly 2 1/2 hour retrospective performance, Taylor sang "Something in the Way She Moves." That's a fabulously appropriate set opener, and hinted that their respective ties to the Beatles had helped bring Taylor and King together all those years ago. Taylor originally recorded that song for his 1968 debut LP, shortly after the Fabs made him the first non-British act signed to their Apple Records. (He repaid the biggest band in the universe for their kindnesses by letting them cop his lyrics to open George Harrison's "Something.")

ralph stanley

And years before launching Taylor's career, the Beatles recorded "Chains," which King had co-written with former husband Gerry Goffin during her days as a hit-making machine in the Brill Building era. On this night, King, in a rare mellow moment, offered up "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," her chronicle of young romance and all the vulnerability that goes with it, and one of the most beautiful pop songs of all time. The Beatles had played that tune live in the days before coming across the pond. The cracks in King's voice that have come with age only made the song more devastatingly great.

Taylor reminded folks of his supreme melody-making gifts and otherworldly niceness with enduring radio staples "Fire and Rain," "Sweet Baby James" and "Carolina In My Mind," the latter also dating back to his Apple debut. They dueted magically on songs that King wrote and Taylor recorded softcore versions of long ago: "Up On the Roof" and "You've Got a Friend." The commercial success that he found with his hyper-introspective material and other similarly low-volume singles opened doors for a lot of singer/songwriters who lacked his chops, and, for better or worse, made Taylor as responsible as anybody for taking the oomph out of pop radio for so much of the 1970s.

King, however, remains very much able to bring out the oomph. For "I Feel the Earth Move," she got out from behind her grand piano to shimmy and kick all over the in-the-round stage. "This is my day job!" she screamed when she was done dancing. And the night's highlight came when she turned her glorious and soulful “Natural Woman” into a power ballad. The tune ended with much of the sellout crowd on its feet and following her lead in singing a rowdy chorus of “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”s. Much like a famous pop band once did.

ralph stanley

ralph stanley

ralph stanley

By David Malitz  |  June 9, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Carole King, James Taylor  
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Posted by: sonhann | June 9, 2010 1:46 AM | Report abuse

What did they do for an encore?

Posted by: allisoneliz | June 9, 2010 7:28 AM | Report abuse

This was my anniversary present. I love that my husband gives me gifts that do not require dusting or repair. This memory will be with me all my life

The anticipation was palpable. The stage was set up in the round and rotated the entire evening. The sound was amazing given we were at the Forum. I knew I was in for a special evening. The crowd knew it too. The set started with James singing "Blossom". I immediately felt my eyes were watering up. I took a deep breath. I didn't exhale until the end. He is so talented. The sounds emanating from his guitar resonated with perfection. His voice -as clear as we all remember. I was swept into the magic of that event long ago at the Troubadour.

Then it was Carols turn. She started gently with "Way Over Yonder" and had that been all she had ever written it would have been enough. Now the moisture in my eyes became a faucet. She sang that song with such conviction and passion. I was humbled at the immense talents before me. My sense of awe heightened, not only by the fact that I was there witnessing this but that this was the music with which I grew up. These were two of the few that set the bar - that still stands today.

James continued with "Sweet Baby James" and "Carolina In My Mind". Every note surrounding us with the warmth of the memories invoked. Carol came back with "Smackwater Jack". Picking up the guitar herself thus further demonstrating that her gifts know no bounds. When she sang "Natural Woman" every woman in the audience stood up and sang it with her. They turned up the lights so she could see what had happened and her face brightened with her megawatt smile and she pointed the microphone at the audience and we finished the song together.

James M-C'd most of the evening with charm and whit, taking us thru the beginnings of their careers and how the meeting of the duo had affected their careers detailing the difficulty of having to select the material for the tour. Had they done all of their hits we would have been there seven hours. We had to settle for three - with two encores. The journey continued with So Far Away, It's Too Late, Fire & Rain, Up On The Roof, ending with "You've Got A Friend" and finally "You Can Close Your Eyes". It felt like the week before, at my high school reunion. I'd visited with friendships I had left behind (over forty years ago) for a while, but never, ever forgotten. Both still warming my heart and burrowed in my soul. It is my hope that this last meeting will not be the last for James & Carol and the rest of you. You know who you are.

Posted by: catdecaire | June 9, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Jame Taylor and Carole King are still among the best performers in the world. I haven't seen their new concert but saw Mr. Taylor in concert last year. You could hear a pin drop when he was singing and it was in an outside venue. Fabulous that they're touring together. You're never too old to do what you love!

Posted by: njglea | June 9, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

The sound at Verizon Center last night, however, was awful. Muddy and poorly-mixed, especially on the more raucous numbers. And this wasn't in the cheap seats. Solo numbers with minimal accompaniment were fine, but when everyone joined in, the sound was a mess.

This would have been a much better-sounding concert in a more intimate venue, or someplace less echo-y like Wolf Trap or the Lube.

Posted by: airsix | June 9, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

It was a magical night. They complimented each other fantastically, and received many standing ovations throughout the show. One of the best concerts I have ever seen, coming from someone who is a Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas fan. A few corrections though -- Carole is 68, not 70. And the first song she sang was "So Far Away". (The audience was esctatic when she sang those first familiar words). I have to agree with the comment about the sound -- Carole sounded great, but sometimes JT was very muddled and unclear. Not his fault of course. Fantastic that this show was sold out -- they are returning for a second one later this month.

Posted by: striver1 | June 9, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Totally agree about the sound. Otherwise the concert was great.

Posted by: jpg63 | June 9, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Allison - they did How Sweet It Is for an encore.

Frankly, I found the concert to be boring. I'm 51 and remember listening to Tapestry. I have a JT album, too. (The one with "Money Machine" on it.) I love pop music, am a total Beatles freak, and am in a rock band, part time, for fun. But except for "I Feel The Earth Move," the songs were relatively tame. King and Taylor are fabulous musicians and song-writers, no doubt. But The Verizon Center was the wrong venue for this concert. Too big. DAR or, even better, The Birchmere would've been fabulous. Understandably, the demand for tickets is too great for those venues.

Posted by: crimsonkng | June 9, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Malitz, re "for better or worse, made Taylor as responsible as anybody for taking the oomph out of pop radio for so much of the 1970s." I know you weren't there, and I was. The radio in the 70's was so much better than it has ever been since, that I cannot believe you said that. The revisionist view that make Seals & Crofts, Hall & Oates, James Taylor and the like "easy listening" or "soft-pop" or whatever term you want to use, is so much crap. They were hip and cool. There was lot's of rock & roll and funk as well, and most of the time it was all on the same station. Just about everything since the 70's is a rehash of what came then. Have some respect, especially when you don't really know.

Posted by: tojo45 | June 9, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I've got my ticket for the 23rd, and I can't wait! Can anyone suggest a way to get a playlist of the concert?

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | June 9, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I've got my ticket for the 23rd, and I can't wait! Can anyone suggest a way to get a playlist of the concert?

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | June 9, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

What did they do for an encore?

Posted by: allisoneliz | June 9, 2010 7:28 AM

Up on the Roof
How Sweet it Is
You Can Close Your Eyes

Posted by: prescrunk | June 9, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Isn't Depends sponsoring this tour?

Posted by: jhwpro | June 9, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Was there and it was an absolutely wonderful experience. I went for James Taylor but came away even more impressed by Carole King--who by the way is not 70, but 68 (still amazing for her age or any age for that matter).

Posted by: economistmom | June 9, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Seeing Carole King or James Taylor is always a treat.

Seeing them together along with their career band (Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel, and Lee Sklar) and their wonderfully talented and inspired singers (Arnold McCuller, Kate Markowitz, and Andrea Zonn), PLUS keyboardist, accordion, harmonica virtuoso Robbie Kondor is one of those rare opportunties that should not be missed!

This rates as an all-time great and special performance, concert, event, tour...truly unique and as wonderful as the thousands of reviews have stated...without question, my favorite concert (starting in the late 60s with the Monkees when I was in 5th grade)!

The great moments kept coming all night - 2.5 hours of some of the greatest pop, rock and folk songs ever written, with performances that were as good as one will ever experience (I am confident that each would say this was one of their best performances).

PERFECT in every way and the connection between the crowd and performers really made a difference to the performers - there were emotional moments on stage and in the audience - everyone's memories were in high gear (and there were several like myself whose memory is no doubt not up to what it used to be!).

Sold-out enthused and enthralled crowd was involved and the stage setting was inspired without resorting to over the top A/V F/X.

We had very good Verizon Center seats on row N in the "100s" side section at it was perfect - but try to get the "candle-lit" table seats that surround the stage if possible as it will reward you with a unique experience for large auditorium concert!

Rotating in the round stage affords almost everyone a great view.

Again, grab tickets before the tour is over - two of America's greatest song writers and performers along with original band members, who all sound as good and better in some ways than when they originally recorded their all time great songs... will be hard to top this, and being the great individuals they are makes it all the more special.

I am certain that these artists would love for the tour to not end…families and commitments await, but I know the new and old fans and special friends who came out to experience this tour, and see Carole and James and the great supporting cast in front and behind the scenes will never forget this!

Posted by: WPblogr2010 | June 9, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

JT and CK are my 2 favorite artists. Their writing talents equal or surpass their performing. Listening to them is like my life set to music. One sour note: the sound was WAY too loud before intermission. It was echoing like announcements at the baseball stadium. Fortunately, they adjusted it at intermission and it was good the rest of the way.

Posted by: aburgoon2 | June 9, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

The concert was magical, musicianship fabulous. It was a great mix of both Carole and James songs, with some others. Writer should correct that first song -- was So Far Away.

A lot of my understanding or should I say re-understanding of the music came from reading Sheila Weller's fabulous book, Girls Like Us, the joint biography of Carole, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. It got me back into the music after many years.

Posted by: artbrodsky | June 9, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone notice how sloppy this article was?

Posted by: fmfats | June 10, 2010 12:01 AM | Report abuse

fmfats, yes I did,I guess the reviewer or the editor found the concert unworthy of a decent summary.

Posted by: marypatlinnan | June 14, 2010 3:59 AM | Report abuse

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