Giddy Carole King and clap-happy James Taylor

Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace

Night and day. Well, not quite. But when the second half of a concert is as different from the first half, as was the case Tuesday with the James Taylor/Carole King lovefest at Xcel Energy Center, then maybe the review needs a postscript.
After Taylor changed from a suit and striped dress shirt to a polo shirt and jeans, and King switched from a fancy gauzy, sparkly black outfit with gold heels to a gauzy casual black outfit with black heels, things seemed to loosen up. They both talked more. They played together more. They sang together more. It felt more like a collaborative concert than a couple of yesterday’s superstars sharing a stage by alternating their hits.
A few other thoughts on the evening:
Was Carole King having fun or what? She was enthusiastic, energetic and, at times, as giddy as “Glee’s” Lea Michelle. King adored the arena spotlight, something she had rarely experienced in a career of very limited touring. Even though she sounded ragged on her first number, "So Far Away," she impressed with her vocal power and passion the rest of the night.
Props to the band, which consisted of mainly Taylor’s regularly touring musicians. The core of the band was bassist Lee Sklar, drummer Russ Kunkel and guitarist Danny Kortchmar, all of whom played with King and Taylor in their 1970 shows at the Troubadour folk club in L.A. Those musicians also played on numerous L.A. lite-rock albums of that era by Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Dan Fogelberg, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills & Nash, among others, and, of course, Taylor and King.
Props also to Taylor’s backup singer Arnold McCuller for his stirring passage during “Shower the People,” something he does at all of Taylor’s concerts.
Props to King for reining in Taylor when he got into a senseless conversation with an overly exuberant “I love you” blonde in the front row. No one is entitled to these kind of private conversations in front of 18,000 other folks. King finally shut up Taylor and the blonde. Shortly thereafter, the overly demonstrative fan took a spill on a wet spot on the arena floor, landing on her bottom. Ouch!
I liked the informality on the final encore when King and Taylor – minus the band – returned to the stage and Taylor himself (not a roadie) set up two chairs for the singers to sit on. Then they duetted on “Close Your Eyes.” Lovely.
The crowd absolutely adored this concert, especially performances by the little-seen King. In the first set, the audience response was often louder than the music itself.
One other thought about the audience: Sure seemed as if many fans had never been to an arena concert before. Or at least not to Xcel Energy Center. Either that or these baby boomers -- and I’m a boomer – sure moved slowly around the X.
Here is the set list from Tuesday’s concert:
Set 1 Blossom/ So Far Away/ Machine Gun Kelly/ Carolina/ Way Over Yonder/ Smackwater Jack/ Country Road/ Sweet Seasons/ Mexico/ Sing a Song of Long Ago segued into Far Away/ Beautiful/ Shower the People/ Natural Woman
Set 2 Where You Lead/ Crying in the Rain/ Your Smiling Face/ Sweet Baby James/ Jazzman/ Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow/ Steamroller/ It’s Too Late/ Fire and Rain/ I Feel the Earth Move/ You’ve Got a Friend ENCORE Up on the Roof/ How Sweet It Is ENCORE Close Your Eyes