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

Despite the large capacities, the tour captures the intimacy that the co-headliners were shooting for. "Carole and I have the sense that we're playing to the audience, but we're also playing to each other," Taylor says. "As it turned out, we needn't have had any worry about who to play to. We've been so overwhelmed by the audience participation, the level of energy they come back with. It's like you count off the first tune and they bear you to the end of the show like a running river."

King says her trepidation was soon gone. "I knew that people would turn out to see us because of our history, and people have told us many times that we are the soundtrack of the lives of a certain generation," she says. "But I wasn't sure that we would deliver. I knew we would deliver the essence of who we are, but I wasn't sure it would translate out as far as it does to every member of the audience. But it does. When James says we play to each other, we do. But the audience is very much a part of what we do. The large group of people becomes a single collective friend."

For most of the show, King plays piano while Taylor plays guitar, backed not only by the Troubadour band but supporting musicians Robbie Kondor (keyboards), Arnold McCuller (vocals), Andrea Zonn (vocals/violin) and Kate Markowitz. The headliners sing together on every song, trade hits and interact with each other, the band and the audience. The bulk of "Tapestry" is included in the set list, as is Taylor's "Greatest Hits," plus King songs made famous by other artists like "Up on the Roof" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman."

It was King who proposed that the arena setup, a la the Troubadour club, feature some "sort of cafe/onstage seating," as Taylor puts it. "It meant an extra truck out on the road to do that, but that's doable-except that it presented us a real problem of, 'How do we price those tickets? How do we sell them? Who do we invite to be in there?' " Taylor says.

"That's where the lucky accident of my relationship with [Tickets for Charity founder] Jord Poster came in, and Tickets for Charity gave us a great way to handle that. We realized that we'd have to set the ticket price higher than what people were paying on the floor, but we didn't want to set them so high that it would be abusive or so low we'd just be asking for scalpers. What we did was turn them over to Tickets for Charity. They set the price and gave the proceeds over to charity."

Working with Tickets for Charity on the approximately 120 seats per show has an added benefit, in Feldman's view: "This has proven to be quite effective in thwarting scalpers in that we basically structured a secondary ticket market with funds for charities, as opposed to into someone's pocket."

Any tickets not sold through Tickets for Charity-there have been few-go to "the occasional real fan who ordinarily wouldn't have been able to afford that seat but is really stoked to be in it," Taylor says. The Tickets for Charity effort has raised about $1.5 million, and counting.

The tables around the revolving stage give the show a TV studio audience feel and the artists "identifiable faces to play to," according to Taylor. Two cameramen onstage transmit the action to even the most distant seats on eight large video screens. The cameras "never, ever interfere with the audience's enjoyment. All they do is bring more enjoyment to the audience," King says. "So when James and I do our two songs on a stool up front, people say, 'I saw the tears moistening in your eyes at the end of "You Can Close Your Eyes." ' I'm like, 'Oh, my gosh,' but that's how close it is."

Though it doesn't boast any pyro or explosions, the production is more elaborate than either artist is accustomed to. "The most that Carole and I are used to going out with in the past is maybe four trucks and five buses," Taylor says. "[On this tour] we've got nine buses and a dozen trucks. This is really a large production, not by the standards of a Jimmy Buffett stadium tour, or a U2 or a Rolling Stones, but from the point of view of a couple of singer/songwriters like Carole and me."

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