James Taylor and Carole King go 'round and 'round at the Xcel

Categories: Last Night
Photos by Steve Cohen
Forty years after they first met, James Taylor and Carole King are in the midst of a Troubadour Reunion tour that showcases the duo's love for each other's songwriting styles and that looks back fondly at the times they first played together. Likewise, their concert last night at the Xcel was steeped in nostalgia, as the duo focused on their hit-making material from the '70s and a crowd of 18,000 baby boomers swooned and sung along in rapt delight.

As soon as my companion and I found our seats, the woman next to us giddily exclaimed, "Oh look, young people!" After assuring her twice that we weren't, in fact, here with our parents, she let out a sigh of amazement at the sight of one of the few couples in the audience under 40. It was that kind of crowd -- the kind that, like Taylor, was dressed in mostly collared shirts and pleated pants; the kind that can afford to purchase $700-plus tickets so that they can be seated right next to the stage at a cabaret table; the kind who have been listening to James Taylor's Greatest Hits and Carole King's Tapestry albums on repeat for the last four decades, and therefore will explode at the first chord of each song, eager to hear their next favorite.

All photos by Steve Cohen
With Taylor and King focusing on their best-known material and the crowd so familiar with their songs, it gave the concert an amazing energy, and made even the most cheesy moments endearing. King was by far the most enthusiastic performer on stage, getting up and running to the edge when she wasn't playing, smiling ear to ear as she waiting to sing, and even getting all her fellow boomers to "raise the roof" in time with "Smackwater Jack."

Yes, let's take a moment to picture that again: Carole King made 18,000 baby boomers raise the roof.

The round stage was set up in the center of the arena, and was set to slowly rotate during the set, so those in the front rows could get up-close-and-personal glimpses of the two icons as they turned 'round. And 'round and 'round they went, trading off songs and playing off one another, at one point even bleeding two of their songs into one another to show their similarities (King's "Song of Long Ago" and Taylor's "Long Ago and Far Away"). "This just shows that we are, in fact, the same person," King joked in the introduction.

Taylor was somewhat goofy between songs as well. Toward the beginning of the show, he announced, "My guitar was born in St. Paul," and then held the instrument to his face, awkwardly cooing "Welcome home, welcome home" in a low voice. At other points, especially the more "rocking" numbers, Taylor would shrug his shoulders and dance around, reminding me more than once of my gangly yet endearing high school math teacher who tried to crash the school dance and do the Macarena. Nerdy, yes, but oh-so-lovable as well.

Unfortunately, we had to scoot out after the first set to book it over to the Varsity for the Mumford & Sons show -- which had almost the exact same crowd, just 30 years younger -- but Jon Bream over at the Star Tribune has a full recap of the second set, along with a set list.


Photos by Steve Cohen

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