James Taylor and Carole King at the Honda Center Last Night

James Taylor and Carole King
July 20, 2010
Honda Center

There are two reasons to watch classic acts: one, you want to say you saw them before they died, and two, well…they're just great performers. There's something to be said, after all, for more than a gazillion years of experience onstage. For James Taylor and Carole King's Troubadour reunion tour (to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their first performance together at The Troubadour in November 1970), the duo–now 68 (Carole King) and 62 (James Taylor) got their original back up band together and hit the road. Last night was the last performance of the tour–and it was amazing.

Not only did every song turn out to be a singalong–from the first few chords of the James Taylor's opening song, “I Feel Fine” “Something In The Way She Moves” to one of Carole King's encores, the rollicking “Up On The Roof”–but every person in the audience felt like they were being treated to something really special.

Sure, King's voice got raspy and thin at times, but her energy and stamina–and visible enjoyment at being in front of thousands of people last night–were palpable, and got people dancing on their feet for most of her tunes (considering most of the audience were sexagenarians or older, that was no mean feat). She also took more risks with her voice and performance, compared to the subdued nature of Taylor's songs.

If you closed your eyes and just listened to Taylor, on the other hand, it sounded like nothing changed. His voice was as crystal clear, sweet and as youthful as they were on records my parents played for me when I was a baby, and there was no denying his masterful guitar playing.

Although the Honda Center seats 17,000 people at capacity, the three-hour long set had an intimate feel due to the duo's banter in between songs, which told stories of their past, and old photos of Taylor, King  and the rest of the band shown from the rotating stage. The performances also didn't feel old or dated. It was sedate, sure–many people stayed in their seats and enjoyed the music–but definitely not restrained.

Taylor and King alternated their songs throughout the two-part set, which had sentimental hits like “Mexico” and “It's Too Late” interspersed with jams such as “Jazzman” and “Your Smiling Face.” Occasionally, the pair would sit together and alternate lines, but it was more common for them to harmonize on the songs–which worked; their voices entwined and lifted up beautifully. A highlight during the third song of the second set was the “audience's choice”: apparently, throughout the tour, King and Taylor surveyed audiences in different ciites and asked them to pick one song for the set. Anaheim chose King's “Where You Lead, I Will Follow,” just another one of those songs that I never realized was hers.  

There were, of course, some tracks that reminded me of being in an elevator, but for the most part, at this show, it was OK to be the fan who sang every song lyric out loud.

When King finally sang, “Thank you to the house of the corporate mouse” at one of the encores, everyone laughed. The evening was about to end, sure, but it was a great evening in the presence of musical genius. 

My family has Carole King karaoke-offs at home–my mom always sings “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

The Crowd:
It was like attending a Republican National Committee fundraiser at
Honda Center last night–the only black man in sight was onstage.
Overheard in the Crowd: “I may be turning 30 next month, but dang it feels good to be the youngest person in a concert.”

Notebook Dump:
  I really really got worried whenever I saw James
Taylor jumping up and down energetically on stage. I admired the effort,
but…his brittle bones!
Also, it was funny to hear him singing “you make me feel like a natural woman” on back-up vocals.

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