James Taylor has described the time when he and Carole King met in 1970 as “the case of the two-timing muse,” as each one was equally inspired by the other’s songwriting. Their third and final Madison Square Garden show on Wednesday night (June 30) — part of for Taylor and King’s Troubadour Reunion tour — celebrated their persisting musical friendship with fans who have been privileged to watch it unfold over the years. Playing with their original band the Section, the pair paid tribute to their 1970 concert series at the Troubadour club in L.A., the seed of four decades of collaboration and chemistry.
To begin the night, King and Taylor’s modest, wordless arrival onstage was immediately met with a standing ovation. With her on piano and him on acoustic guitar, which would be the typical setup for the night, Taylor’s “Something In The Way She Moves” echoed through the Garden, followed by King’s “So Far Away.” The two faced one another as the circular stage revolved, with King’s emotive vocal crescendos pausing during Taylor’s quick guitar solo.
“We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. I think that’s what they meant,” Taylor said after the first pair of songs, addressing the predominantly baby boomer-comprised audience as the rest of the band members walked onstage. As part of the tour’s commemorative theme, the screens above the stage displayed old pictures of the musicians as Taylor and King introduced — or maybe re-introduced — them to the crowd.
Throughout the approximately 30-song set, the gracious and witty duo alternated between their own material, sometimes even thematically pairing songs. King’s “Beautiful” complemented Taylor’s “Shower the People,” the former bolstered by King’s rich piano solo while the latter elevated by the powerful vocals of backup singer Arnold McCuller.
To capture the feel of the Troubadour shows, King and Taylor offered tickets, the proceeds of which went to charity, for table seats around the stage, with small lamps on each one providing a vintage glow. The night’s most evocative song pairing, King’s “It’s Too Late” and Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” successfully revived the intimate feeling of a scene that was first created 40 years ago.
The night’s high point came when King belted “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Originally written for Aretha Franklin, the song’s gospel-inspired call-and-response vocals dueled with Danny Kortchmar’s electric guitar and brought King to life onstage, as her passionate piano playing emulated her vocal inflections. Because the night was about friendship and reflection, though, the duo concluded their set with “You’ve Got a Friend,” which they sang to each other with King’s soulful rasp juxtaposing Taylor’s folk-blues sound.
For an official end to the show, King and Taylor gave an encore of joint renditions of King’s peaceful “Up on the Roof” and Taylor’s upbeat “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” as the two bid the crowd farewell and gave a final nod to a partnership with deep roots.
Here is Carole King and James Taylor’s setlist:
“Something in the Way She Moves”
“So Far Away”
“Honey Don’t Leave L.A.”
“Carolina in My Mind”
“Way Over Yonder”
“Song of Long Ago”
“Long Ago and Far Away”
“Shower the People”
“(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman”
“Down On Copperline””You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine”
“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”
“Your Smiling Face”
“It’s Too Late”
“Fire and Rain”
“I Feel the Earth Move”
“You’ve Got A Friend”
“Up On The Roof”