Carole King and James Taylor reflect on their Troubadour tour
One of the biggest surprises in pop music so far this year has been the runaway success of James Taylor and Carole King’s Troubadour tour, which was spawned by the outpouring of affection the veteran singer-songwriters elicited in 2007 with their first joint performances in decades for the 50th anniversary of the fabled Troubadour club in West Hollywood.
Their summer tour, which included a multi-night stand in May at the Hollywood Bowl, drew a predictably respectful crowd of baby boomers who had lapped up this music when the pair first came to fame in the early 1970s. But it also pulled in younger generations of fans in their teens, 20s and 30s who weren’t born in 1970-71, when Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” and King’s “Tapestry” rode high on the sales charts.
The current tour, which sold out at nearly every stop, placed among the top five highest-grossing tours nationally and worldwide during the first half of 2010, according to Pollstar — something neither performer expected. And the combination CD and DVD recorded during those 2007 shows, “Carole King and James Taylor — Live at the Troubadour,” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and, 10 weeks later, remains in the top 20, having sold 329,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Not bad for a couple of old folk-rockers.
Taylor, 62, and King, 68, closed out the tour Tuesday with a final stop at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Interviewed a few hours before the show, the pair didn’t close the door on future shows together, but King said it marks the end of a particularly satisfying chapter for them.
They spoke with The Times about the peaks and valleys of this musical journey.
As this tour comes to an end, are you sad, relieved, or both?
Taylor: I think both, sad and relieved. Carole, what do you think? Grateful, I’d say.
King: Relieved is not exactly the right word. The grueling schedule of a tour like this is something neither of us will miss. I’m happy and sad and grateful and just a mix of emotions — and gratitude. I think James has it right.
Taylor: The [attendance and revenue] numbers of course are great, and very validating. But the main thing is the quality of the reactions of the audiences we’d played to. We’ve simply been overwhelmed by the emotional strength of the response.... I think there’s something about going back and forth from Carole to me.… We’re going back and forth on things we did from 40 years ago, and the audience is having a parallel experience to the one we’re having on stage.
King [to Taylor]: I love when you do that: You really articulate what I’m thinking. And I would like to expand on what James said. The multi-generationalness was surprising. You would expect people [in the audience] who either do or do not remember the ‘60s, and what they were doing at the time. But I’m also seeing so much I wasn’t expecting: people my grandchildren’s ages.... Something about this music is touching people across generations, and that’s surprising.
The standard line about the success of “Tapestry” and “Sweet Baby James” is that they offered much needed emotional stability and reassurance following so many years of social and political upheaval in the ‘60s. How does that explain why these songs seem to resonate with so many people four decades later?
Taylor: I guess the message is that upheaval never goes away.
King: The times we are in are very challenging. You can say that about any times, but these are really challenging for many people. The fact that this [material] is resonating with them speaks about emotion, and music that can stand on its own, without the need for a big presentation.... When we do “You’ve Got a Friend,” we were in one theater with a proscenium and I got to see the [video] screen with the projections of pictures of James and me and the band members back in the day. I think it reminds people that life does go on, that they’ve been through tough times and they got through and they’ll get through it again. And I think it lets younger people see, “Wow, my mom and my dad made it through that, I guess we can make it through this.”
What moments stand out for you?
King: One night James spoke about someone he had met who had lost a child at a very young age. He didn’t say much about it; James just said that a lot of people are here to celebrate something, and a lot of people are grieving something here.... At one show we met a mother in a wheelchair who was newly diagnosed with ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease]. I shook this woman’s hand, and the daughter was sitting there with her. The woman was just taking it in — not serene exactly, but accepting of her illness. Her daughter had tears streaming down her face as she was telling us how much the music means to her mother.
Taylor: I wanted to mention a funny thing that happened when we were in L.A., at the Hollywood Bowl. I don’t remember which night it was, but Henry and Rufus, my 9-year-olds, were at the show. I was in the dressing room with [wife] Kim and we were just changing after the show. Henry came to the door and stuck his head in and said, “James Bond and Indiana Jones are waiting in the corridor, Dad.” It’s amazing to see what has an effect and what doesn’t. Carole, remember when we were in Melbourne? Lady Gaga has one of those deep emotional connections, to Carole particularly, and she came by to meet us. Rufus and Henry were standing in the room, the green room, where we received them. And Rufus turned to me and said, “Dad, why is she wearing a rubber bathing suit?”