Carole King, Orpheum Theater, July 7, 2005
King's voice was in pretty good shape--a bit rough around the edges but in a good way. When singing quietly, her phrasing was as full of nuance and soul as ever. In belt-it-out mode, she'd miss some notes and hit some others and produce some harsh sounds but it was all very genuine and devil-may-care. Really, she's one of the all-time best white R&B singers, comparable to Van Morrison in how naturally and deeply she's absorbed and personalized her influences. She's also a kind of cabaret singer-performer, very showbiz and corny at times ("This is what 63 looks like!"), but charmingly so. (She did look great.) When she went back to her early Goffin-King collaborations, especially "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" and "Up On the Roof," I felt pretty sure that I was listening to the best pop songs ever written. A world of rather deep emotion in a package designed for teenage consumption. Lennon and McCartney once said that they wanted to be the British Goffin and King, which is the ultimate endorsement. I'm mad for Lieber-Stoller, Goffin-King, Mann-Weill, and all that Brill Building stuff. (King and Goffin, by the way, didn't actually work in the Brill Building; they were in another building across the street). The chord progressions found in some of the best Goffin-King tunes were this great amalgam of pop and R&B/gospel changes, much simpler than most Broadway and Tin Pan Alley changes but fancier than most R&B changes, and always very elegant, much like King's best melodies and Goffin's best lyrics.
King played full versions of some of that early material and portions of other tunes. Not surprisingly, she didn't play "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss"), or "Happy Being Fat." Nor, to my chagrin, did she play "Goin' Back" or "No Easy Way Down" from her underrated first solo album, Writer. She was backed by two sideman, one of whom, Gary Burr, is a songwriter as well. He played two of his songs, one of which was terrible, the other of which was "Love's Been a Little Bit Hard On Me," the excellent Juice Newton hit. For that number, King stood up and played guitar, saying that she was fulfilling her dream of being in the Eagles without actually "having to interact with the Eagles." Snap! As a ballad singer, Burr was an irritating emotoer and his presence on "You've Got a Friend" was a bummer.
The crowd did some singing along and out-of-time clapping, which always drives me nuts, but the audience-participation stuff was only a major nuisance here and there.