Some wept. Most sang along. And everyone cheered.
To say that the music played by James Taylor and Carole King on Tuesday night connected with the crowd at the HP Pavilion in San Jose is a vast understatement. Indeed, it was almost as if the two legendary singer-songwriters — currently celebrating the 40th anniversary of their first collaboration with a world tour — had cued up the very soundtrack to these fans' lives.
Each song brought memories, which washed across the faces in the crowd in different ways. Each lyric struck home, as if the words had personal meaning to every fan in the building. And the voices were as familiar to these listeners as that of family members, delivering a type of warmth and comfort that is rarely found in a major concert venue.
The pair's co-headlining trek — dubbed the "Troubadour Reunion" tour, in honor of the West Hollywood venue where King and Taylor performed together in 1970 — has proved to be one of the major musical success stories of the year. The HP date drew a capacity audience of some 16,000, resulting in one of the largest concert crowds in the venue's 17-year history, according to promoter Another Planet Entertainment. Demand has been so great locally that the "Troubadour Reunion" is scheduled to make a return trip to the Bay Area this summer — July 19 at Oracle Arena in Oakland (see www.apeconcerts.com for more information).
The two-set, 2 ½ hour concert began as Taylor and King walked, hand-in-hand, onto the slowly rotating circular stage located at the center of the arena's floor. They smiled at the crowd, nodded to their fellow band members and then took their places. The 62-year-old Taylor began to strum his guitar and King, 68, laid her hands on the keys of her piano, and the magic began.
Initially, the set list closely resembled what's found on the pair's newly released concert album, "Live at the Troubadour," which was recorded during a series of gigs at the famed folk-music shrine in 2007. Taylor's voice sounded as sweet as ever as he coaxed out the lines to such beauties as "Carolina in My Mind" and "Country Road," while King was convincingly soulful and utterly poignant on "So Far Away" and "Smackwater Jack," two tracks from her seminal 1971 album "Tapestry."
Those songs would sound great anytime their respective parents sung them. What made the renditions on Tuesday night so special, however, was the chance to see them performed by both artists. That might sound obvious — and it is, especially if one knows the extent of the shared history of these two stars. For starters, King was featured on Taylor's breakthrough effort, 1970's "Sweet Baby James," while he returned the favor on "Tapestry."
Making the evening even more memorable was the band. Three of the players in the six-member supporting cast — guitarist Danny Kortchmar, bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Russell Kunkel — were part of the original so-called "Section" that backed Taylor and King in the studio and on the live stage in the early '70s.
The two stars really could do no wrong as they flipped places at the microphone and continued to conjure up emotions with such hits as "Fire and Rain," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "Sweet Baby James" and "You've Got a Friend."
Every fan in attendance surely had a particular favorite in the set list — which, in all likelihood, directly corresponded to who they were with, where they were or what they were doing when they first heard the tune. The single most memorable selection of the night, however, might've been King's powerful take on her composition "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," which Aretha Franklin scored a major hit with in 1967.
As the incomparable songwriter belted out the number, women could be seen wiping tears from their faces. More telling of the degree of emotion that song stirred in the crowd, however, were all the men that sang along with gusto to the lyrics: "You make me feel like a natural woman!"
And you know how it felt? Like everything else about this night, it felt superb.
Read Jim Harrington's Concert Blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts/.