Tapestry: Live In Hyde Park (CD/DVD)

Carole King

Legacy, 2017


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


At this point in her career, Carole King has officially achieved the status of “living legend.” Let’s just get that part out of the way right off the bat.

King—often co-writing with Gerry Goffin—is responsible for composing some of the most memorable songs in the modern pop music songbook, placing 118 hits on the charts between 1955 and 1999, resulting in her generally being considered the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century in the USA. Her 1971 solo masterpiece Tapestry, featuring her own interpretations of several of her best-loved songs, remains one of the best-selling albums of all time; it topped the U.S. album chart for 15 weeks during its original run and stayed in the charts for more than six years. Over the course of a recent several-years-long victory lap, she’s reunited with old bandmate James Taylor for a joint tour and seen a musical based on her life and songs become a Broadway smash (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical).

Tapestry: Live At Hyde Park finds King and a crack band of seasoned pros scaling the highest peaks in her entire catalogue: the Tapestry album front to back, plus a smattering of other familiar hits in both medley and full-song form. It’s a celebration of King herself that never once feels like her ego enters into the picture; it’s always about the song and giving everything she can to it.

Everything she can give is less than she could in her prime, of course; her 74-year-old voice is not the same instrument as her 30-year-old voice, and over the course of the show she frankly acknowledges not being able to hit the big notes anymore. But she gamely tackles every song, with integrity and enthusiasm sometimes substituting—often effectively—for range and power. King is supported throughout by an eight-person band led by Music Director Robbie Kondor on keys and featuring her old friend and longtime King/Taylor guitar man Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, plus Dylan Kondor (guitar), Zev Katz (bass), Shawn Pelton (drums), Jamie Talbot (sax) and dynamite background vocalists Shar White and Michelle John.

Forty-five years after the release of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Tapestry, King and company performed it before 65,000 people in London’s Hyde Park as one of the highlights of the July 2016 British Summer Time festival. Hearing the album performed live start to finish serves as a reminder of both what a remarkable collection it is, and how individual listens to its multiple hit singles and well-loved deep cuts have tended over the years to obscure the ebb and flow of the album itself. “I Feel The Earth Move” is a test right out of the gate, a fierce, rollicking number that finds the entire band lifting the crowd up on its shoulders. King fights her voice a bit at the start, but quickly locks into the song’s eternal groove and pushes through.

The wistful “So Far Away” is naturally gorgeous, and “It’s Too Late” soars as it should. “Home Again,” “Beautiful” and “Way Over Yonder” get faithful but not reverent readings that remind you one of the reasons Tapestry is so revered is that there simply isn’t a duff track on it. “You’ve Got A Friend” turns into a 65,000-person singalong, and then King brings out daughter Louise Goffin to sing harmony (and a little bit of lead) on a pair of immortal tunes: “Where You Lead” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” “Smackwater Jack” finds King strapping on an electric guitar and rocking out with the band, before settling back behind her piano for “Tapestry,” ironically one of the more low-key, unobtrusive tunes on the album named for it.

The closing track of the album finds King explicitly conceding the changes her voice has undergone with age, leaving it to a video version of her 40-years-younger self to sing the first verse of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” joining in to sing harmony vocals for her younger self on the chorus, before carrying on in a lower key, with less range and a lot of support from her backup singers. It’s an honest and poignant choice and the crowd showers its adoration on her in response.

After that big mid-show finish, King delves into her massive songbook for a medley including highlights from hits like “Go Away Little Girl,” “I’m Into Something Good” and “One Fine Day.” They close out the main set with a powerhouse one-two-three punch of “Hey Girl,” “Chains” and a thunderous rendition of “Jazzman.” For encores they pull out another pair of nuggets in “Up On The Roof” (a hit for both The Drifters and James Taylor) and “Locomotion,” before finishing up with a reprise of “I Feel The Earth Move” featuring the West End cast of Beautiful, and a brief, sentimental reprise of “You’ve Got A Friend” with King alone at her piano thanking the crowd for its hospitality.

The video version features the same tracklist as the audio, and it’s first-class from start to finish, professionally and tastefully edited and produced, while affording a good sense of the crowd’s presence and King and band’s warm interaction with everyone lucky enough to be present.

Tapestry: Live At Hyde Park inevitably mixes celebration with a certain inescapable wistfulness; there’s no denying either the timelessness of these songs—basically an entire concert’s worth of pop standards—or the toll taken by the passage of years. Still, there’s nothing quite like hearing this remarkable set of songs performed by the artist who created them in the first place, a true living legend, giving them and her audience everything she has, with grace and humor and heart enough to fill Hyde Park with a sea of grateful smiles.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2017 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Legacy, and is used for informational purposes only.