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It’s a Carole King kind of year, now 50 years since her career reformatting/decade defining second album, Tapestry, (which Wind Back Wednesday went back not that long ago). But there’s no harm in going back to that well. Hell, that well has been drawn from by two generations of singer/songwriters now.

Certainly, King’s reputation was built on her songs, from well before the aforementioned classic album, but it never really grew from her live performances. Eventually though, by the time her core audience had grown up, grown old and grown financially flush, playing live became the smart thing to do, whatever hesitations she might once have held.

Or for that matter, whether the songs of more recent vintage matched the gems she wrote for dozens of acts in the 1960s, or on albums either side of Tapestry, such as Writer, Music, and Rhymes & Reasons

As this 2006 concert in Sydney reflects, maybe nothing mattered once we got the golden fare.



Sydney Entertainment Centre, November 30

It's hard to imagine that Carole King once feared performing. One of the great pop songwriters of the 1960s (was there a singer or group, from the Beatles down, who didn't cover one of her songs?) and one of the defining figures of the 1970s (was there a woman who didn't have Tapestry playing during high and low points of her life during that decade?) for a long time King felt more at home at home.

The Living Room tour, which began in 2004 quite literally in people's living rooms as she performed fundraisers for John Kerrey's presidential bid, solves some of those old problems by in a sense bringing her "home" to us for her first visit to Australia.

The stage was dressed as a living room - comfy chairs, cushions scattered, big pot plants and a rug - and King came across as something like your favourite aunt: sweet, beaming at our attempts to join in on songs and full of little stories and self-deprecating jokes.

She began with Tapestry's track, Beautiful, with its give-everyone-a-hug sentiment, "you're beautiful as you feel", and ended with an everybody-get-up-and-dance spin of Loco-motion, along the way telling us how "awesome" we were for singing along with the likes of Will You Love Me Tomorrow.

The effect sometimes was a little too close to cheesy but then she wasn't making any attempt to be slick; rather trying to make this oversized room (surely the State or Capitol would have been better suited, if not as lucrative) intimate.

Intimacy is King's stock in trade after all. She never had the lyrical, musical or emotional complexity and intensity of a Joni Mitchell - the other towering female musical figure of the '70s - but she had a way of bringing you close. And boy could she write a pop chorus.

Those intimate songs had no trouble hitting home this night: So Far Away and Where You Lead (with rewritten, post-feminism, lyrics) early; It's Too Late (out of her vocal range these days but still triumphant) and You've Got A Friend later in the show.

And those pop choruses kept lighting up the room: the medley of her early songs such as I'm Into Something Good and One Fine Day early in the show; Chains and Pleasant Valley Sunday later on.

The contrast between these out and out classics and much more generic recent fare such as Loving You Forever - co-written with one of her two guitarists, Gary Burr and sounding more like something Dan Fogelburg would have given us - is a reminder that continuing the golden songwriting moments is not a given.

But then kicking off the encore with A Natural Woman is a reminder that few songwriters have had golden moments as burnished as Carole King.


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