It’s been a long, long haul since 1971 when it seemed as if Carole King and James Taylor records were on every turntable of every hippie, post-hippie, or wannabe-hippie in the country. Nevertheless, the sold-out sign was up for all three nights of their joint “Troubadour Reunion” gig at the mammoth Hollywood Bowl in far-off 2010 (sold out since last November, a spokeswoman for Bill Silva Presents said).On one level, it was a vivid demonstration of the purchasing power of nostalgia, even in a punishing recession, as well as Taylor’s omnipresence as of late on PBS concert specials. On another, more important one, this relaxed yet Bowl-friendly show was proof that these two durable singer/songwriters produced bodies of work that were evidently built to last.The concert was part of a U.S. tour commemorating the 40th anniversary of King and Taylor’s appearances at the star-making Troubadour club in West Hollywood, as well as a push for a just-released CD/DVD package (Hear Music/Concord) recorded at the Troubadour in Nov. 2007. Their names are linked together primarily for a relatively small – given the long spans of their careers – amount of work that they did on each other’s albums around 1969-71.Whether meaning to or not, King and Taylor caught the zeitgeist of that time – introspective burnout from the heat of the 1960s and the reaction that followed – and the Troubadour album is concisely limited to that period (save for a couple of earlier King standards). The 2 3/4-hour Bowl show retained the album’s overall structure fleshed out with songs from beyond – but not too far beyond – their years together, along with more outgoing elements that would play better in a vast amphitheatre.One well-crafted, catchy song after another tumbled out of King’s and Taylor’s fingers and voices, backed by original fellow-travellers in “The Section” – the solid, familiar thump of Russ Kunkel’s drums and Leland Sklar’s bass, and the controlled scorch of Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar’s guitar. Now and then, King would step away from her piano, take the mic, and rock out to “Smackwater Jack,” “I Feel The Earth Move,” or even all the way back to “The Loco-Motion” – looking remarkably fit and comfortable. JT stayed mostly riveted to his spot except when jamming with Kootch, ever the low-key troubadour and gently humorous raconteur. He hit his most ingratiating groove in one of his best later songs, “Copperline.”Little of real significance has changed in King’s and Taylor’s performances from the original recordings – a voice-and-drums addition to “Country Road” here, a heads-up to the SoCal audience in “You’ve Got A Friend” there – and the pacing mostly stayed resolutely laid-back as they traded songs. But there is no substitute for great material – and it will be impossible to leave their concerts without three, four, or more of their songs replaying endlessly in your head.
Hollywood Bowl, 17,374 seats, $17.50 - $175
Presented by Andrew Hewitt and Bill Silva Presents.
Band: Carole King, James Taylor, Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Robbie Kondor, Arnold McCuller, Kate Markowitz, Andrea Zonn. Reviewed May 13, 2010.