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Live review: James Taylor and Carole King at the Hollywood Bowl

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James Taylor and Carole King made no effort to disguise their ages Thursday night at the Hollywood Bowl, where the two sixtysomething singers played the first of three dates on their Troubadour Reunion trek. 

The world tour — which stops Tuesday at the Santa Barbara Bowl and wraps July 20 at the Honda Center in Anaheim — comes 40 years after Taylor and King first performed together at the cozy West Hollywood club that gives the road show its name; a live CD-DVD, recorded at the Troubadour in 2007, debuted earlier this week at No. 4 on Billboard’s album-sales chart.

“We tried to reconstruct what was on those Troubadour set lists,” Taylor said with a laugh not long into the 2 ½-hour concert. “But it’s hard to remember.” Earlier he’d introduced guitarist Danny Kortchmar, bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Russell Kunkel as “the original band Carole and I worked with back in 1903.”
You had to admire Taylor’s honesty regarding his role as pop’s folkie emeritus. But it was King who summed up the evening’s performance more accurately in a line from her 1971 hit “So Far Away”: “One more song about moving along the highway / Can’t say much of anything that’s new.”

Despite the warm reception by a capacity crowd content to stoke the fires of nostalgia, Thursday’s show offered depressingly little of value to anyone not predetermined to relive good times gone by. This wasn’t music that said anything interesting about aging, as recent work by Merle Haggard, Susan Boyle and the English singer Tracey Thorn has.

But neither was it music that defied age with Madonna-like verve: When King sang “The Loco-Motion,” which she penned with Gerry Goffin during their early-’60s stint as Brill Building songwriters, the result replaced youthful excitement with wedding-band schmaltz. So, too, did a corny rendition of “I Feel the Earth Move,” King’s first solo hit, feel like a betrayal of the tune’s gutsy thrust.

That said, King managed at least to summon some energy during her songs; most of Taylor’s selections sounded like lullabies, even though he only presented one, “Sweet Baby James,” as such. Not surprisingly, given the breadth of both artists’ catalogs, there were exceptions: Taylor’s “Copperline” was a lovely acoustic reverie, while Sklar and Kunkel gave King’s “It’s Too Late” a lithe soft-funk groove. Taking the stage on their own for a second encore, the two headliners harmonized with undimmed affection in “You Can Close Your Eyes.”

In a show built on memories, though, newly memorable moments—such as backup vocalist Arnold McCuller’s thrilling solo during an otherwise dreary “Shower the People”—were few and far between. King and Taylor didn’t disappoint Thursday because they’re too old to make a fresh impact on listeners. They disappointed because they seemed so uninterested in trying.

-- Mikael Wood

Photo: Carole King and James Taylor at the Hollywood Bowl. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times


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Comments () | Archives (78)

Well all I can say is thank you for such a pointed critical review of Carol King & James Taylor. As a result, they have received nothing but glowing reviews and by the time they reach Charlotte next Wednesday, they should have corrected the multitude of issues you noted in your review. Forget the 3 pages of comments that suggested you were an idiot, I'm sure in your self-righteous mind, you know you're right, just lack much company or affirmation.

Without doubt, this is the most BS review I have ever read. Mikael Wood is either deaf or evil and doesn't know a damn thing about performance.

Well it's July 10. The Troubadour Reunion Tour is winding down and will soon be coming to a close. Carole King and James Taylor have circled the globe: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and just about every city in the U.S. in between. Billboard named the Troubadour Reunion Tour the #1 Hot Tour of the summer. It's just about the only tour that hasn't LOST money this summer, selling-out in every venue it has landed in. The tour has raised over $1.3 million for charity. The CD / DVD of LIVE AT THE TROUBADOUR is still #1 across the board on Amazon. Every single review of this show has been stellar. Just Google it and you'll see. The show has been given its due by every critic around the world.

Except for this one.

It amazes me that this review was ever printed. I re-read this today thinking that perhaps I missed the good in it somehow. But, nope. It is still the most off-base, skewed review I've ever read. Helen Keller could have done a better job covering this show.

I hope that the managing editor has seen these comments by disgruntled fans of King & Taylor, and - at the very least - discussed the matter with Mr. Wood. And I hope that Mr. Wood has delved into a music history book or two since writing this to brush up on the basics.

I think that all of us - excluding Mr. Wood - can agree that this was one of the greatest shows of our lifetime. Thank you, Carole & James for your music and for a truly amazing concert.

 
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