Hot Tours: James Taylor & Carole King, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé
Hot Tours: James Taylor & Carole King, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé

SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN

According to Billboard Boxscore, Taylor/King is among the elite tours so far this year, surrounded by stadium-level rock acts like AC/DC and Bon Jovi and ranked neck and neck on the Boxscore charts with the Black Eyed Peas and Taylor Swift. Total ticket sales exceed 700,000, and the total tour gross should end up around $63 million by the time all 58 shows are tallied, according to Taylor's management. The tour has averaged a whopping 95% capacity.

The genesis of the tour dates back decades to the pair's milestone early-'70s shows at Los Angeles' famed Troubadour club, first in November 1970 and then most famously for two weeks in 1971. (The band that backed them then, and backs them today on the current tour, included the legendary assemblage of El Lay studio musicians known as the Section-guitarist Danny Kortchmar, bassist Lee Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel.)

Taylor and King were already intertwined musically (though never romantically): In 1970 Taylor released "Sweet Baby James" (on which King appears), yielding the massive hit "Fire and Rain" and later notched his first Billboard No. 1 with the King-penned "You've Got a Friend." For her part, King, already a Brill Building super-songwriter, was quickly becoming a top-shelf performer and recording artist, having just released the landmark album "Tapestry," which boasted such hits as "So Far Away," "It's Too Late" and "I Feel the Earth Move."

Those Troubador shows, with those backing musicians, in many ways set both artists off on a string of successes that won them the hearts and minds of their generation. Taylor has remained a hard-touring artist, King less so, but their careers have remained connected in the eyes of fans. Those shows were also a watershed moment for King and Taylor, and it seems the two were intent on recapturing that magic.

"Carole and I would talk over the years about getting back together and doing it again, and when we heard that the Troubadour was going to have a 50th anniversary in 2007, that was our opportunity," Taylor says. "We jumped on that one, and got Russ and Lee and Danny back together. We did that gig, and that gave us the foothold to go forward."

"We were very careful about how we priced the tickets and where and when we went on sale," says Feldman, who worked closely with King's manager, Lorna Guess, and agents Rob Light from Creative Artists Agency (CAA) (Taylor) and Dan Weiner of Paradigm (King) on plotting the tour. "Putting one show only on sale for the Hollywood Bowl to start the buzz proved to be a solid decision. Having the rest of the tour dates come first out of the box in the new year fanned the flames."

While so many are talking about new models and innovative touring deals, the Troubadour Reunion tour is decidedly old school, and not because of the familiar songs performed. Rather than opting for a partnership with one promoter, this tour cut deals individually in each market with a wide range of promoters, many of them independents.

"We purposely did not use one national promoter, as I've always believed that there is a best promoter for the job in each market and, more often than not, that promoter is the promoter of record," Feldman says. "I don't like to change horses unless there is a damn good reason. As it turns out, there were no weaknesses in the campaign. There was Don Fox at Beaver Productions, Live Nation, AEG, Gregg Perloff at Another Planet, Jam Productions, Nederlander and Andy & Bill Concerts. They all did a great job."
Fox adds, "It obviously worked."

After late-March shows in Australia and the Pacific Rim, the tour began in North America on May 7 in Portland, Ore., and runs until the end of this month. One planned May 14 Hollywood Bowl show went up last November and turned into three, and the tour was suddenly a hot property, with large arenas being the primary showplace.

"Management said, 'Let's get the Hollywood Bowl tickets on sale early,' and that's management's world, so we said, 'OK,' " King says. "That was a good instinct on their part, because one show sold out, then two, then three. They said we could add a fourth show, but we felt we should stop while we're ahead."

Taylor says there's a "certain natural progression" to how the tour unfolded. "We decided to go to Australia because Carole and I have had offers before to go to Australia-it was a friendly outpost to hone the show," he says. The instincts were dead on, as the Pacific Rim run produced $15 million in gross and 80,000 tickets sold. "Then the agent came back with the information that the arenas would be best, that it would match the demand for tickets."

King found the idea of playing large arenas like New York's Madison Square Garden (three sellouts) "sort of horrifying, because we perform introspective songs intimately," she says. "Even with the Troubadour band, it was scary to think about how that would play in arenas. And James came up with the wonderful idea of doing it in the round and that made all the difference. It means that nobody, no matter how high up or far away, is more than half an arena away."

The tour played primarily indoors, but worked outdoors as well, blowing out the Hollywood Bowl and the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Bowl, where Nederlander VP Moss Jacobs promoted a sold-out date. "The audience understood the unique nature of it and that it was, perhaps, a once-in-a-lifetime event," Jacobs says.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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