This year marks the 40th anniversary of James Taylor and Carole King’s first performance together at the famed Troubadour, an intimate West Hollywood club and haven for singer-songwriters in the early ’70s. At the time, King played piano in Taylor’s band.
Their current collaborative tour spawned from a string of sold-out Troubadour shows by the duo in 2007 to commemorate the club’s 50th anniversary. The iconic singer-songwriters brought their “Troubadour Reunion” tour to Florida this past weekend. A baby boomer crowd filled the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa last Sunday
After their second song, King’s “So Far Away,” Taylor greeted the fans and set the evening’s jovial tone: “We had to be here tonight, but you didn’t. So thank you for coming out!”
For almost three hours together on stage, but for a short intermission, they conducted a soulful journey.
“When we originally wrote our set list, this show was seven hours long,” Taylor joked.
He didn’t need to joke: A list of hits both have forged could easily fill a seven-hour performance. However, the two narrowed the list to a poetic blend of transcendent songs that took us far from the earlier traffic, the Gulf oil crisis and the looming Monday morning.
The stage set-up was in the round, including a slowly rotating circular stage surface and an up-close-and-personal VIP section depicting a nightclub. These seats were sold through a charity group with proceeds benefitting national and local charitable causes. Eight large video screens surrounded the arena scoreboard high above the stage, providing continuous show coverage in every direction.
King and Taylor were flawlessly supported by six musicians, including three original bandmates — bassist Leland Sklar, guitarist Danny Kortchmar and drummer Russ Kunkel, all of whom are renowned session musicians. The vibe on stage matched that of the crowd; happy and gracious.
In fact, the stage performance was such a good balance of precision and enthusiasm that one would guess it to be the first show of the tour or the last. But they actually are about mid-tour; I feel bad for the other cities and fans who won’t get to see the show we saw in Tampa.
But I’ll get over it.
“These next two songs were meant to be played together,” Taylor said, introducing their first set closers: his “Shower The People” and King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Each song garnered a standing ovation.
For the second set, Taylor ditched his suit jacket and dress shirt for a simple polo shirt and fitted cap while King swapped her dress slacks for blue jeans. They picked up right where they left off with Taylor’s upbeat “Your Smiling Face.”
They ended their second set with four classics. The first two were introspective: King’s “It’s Too Late,” then Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.” Then, however, they swung into her “I Feel the Earth Move” then his “You’ve Got a Friend.” Wow is right.
For “Earth,” King and her contagious smile popped out from behind her piano and bounced around the stage with unrestrained vitality. Interestingly, “Friend” was written by King but Taylor’s version became his sole No. 1 hit.
After their second encore song, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” the entire band assembled center stage for a huddle and a quick exchange of words before acknowledging the standing, cheering crowd with a bow.
The band left the stage while King and Taylor remained to soak in the applause, seeming stunned by the outpouring. Taylor then motioned to his stage manager: “One more?” The stage manager checked his watch and gave him the go ahead. Genuine moment or stage dramatics? I bought it.
The journey concluded with a beautifully delivered acoustic version of “You Can Close Your Eyes.” As they left the stage through the crowd, the video screens followed them symbolically, with tapes showing the real Troubadour, and King and Taylor walking by on the sidewalk and off into the distance.
Chris Bradshaw is a Bonita Springs-based concert photographer who loves to shoot the show. He’s covered local bands in tiny smoke-filled bars, U2 in a sold out stadium and everything in between.