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Carole King, James Taylor enthrall Salt Lake crowd with string of their hits

CAROLE KING AND JAMES TAYLOR, EnergySolutions Arena, July 15

Let's get this out of the way right off the bat.

Songwriter extraordinaire Carole King sang flat throughout the night. And her voice wasn't as clean as it has been in the past.

But, for a 68-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, she gave her all.

She may have been fighting off a cold or just having problems with the arid Utah air.

James Taylor's voice, on the other hand, was as crisp as it has ever been, but he did have a hard time keeping up with King's spry energy.

Together they were able to bring happiness and memories to the nearly sold-out audience at the EnergySolutions Arena Thursday night.

The rotating stage gave the audience a chance to see the musicians and singers in action from all angles and was highlighted by a tight, colorful lighting design.

Eight large flat screens were suspended over the stage, as was a cylindrical LED screen.

"We thank you for coming out tonight," Taylor said with a wry grin. "We had to be here, but you didn't."

The duo re-created their early-career days with the Troubadour Reunion tour and sang a string of hits. Furthermore, they were backed by the original musicians from those days — bassist Leland Sklar, guitarist Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar and drummer Russell Kunkel.

King and Taylor combined their songs in $2 million sets that included King's lamenting "So Far Away," "It's Too Late" and "Way Over Yonder."

Taylor's contributions included "Machine Gun Kelly," "Carolina in My Mind" and "Shower the People,' which included a rousing and soulful coda sung by back-up vocalist Arnold McCuller.

The two told anecdotes about their songs and, at one point, displayed the lyrical similarities between King's "Song of Long Ago" and Taylor's' "Long Ago and Far Away," songs they wrote around the same time in separate places.

Some rare King jewels included "Smackwater Jack," "Beautiful" and "Sweet Seasons" while Taylor strummed out his popular works "Mexico," "Country Road," and "Sweet Baby James."

King smiled and danced during "I Feel the Earth Move" and gave "Where You Lead I Will Follow" a Sugarhouse reference. Taylor got the audience singing along with "Your Smiling Face," "Fire and Rain" and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)."

They also added a song to their set which was chosen by Salt Lake fans, "Secret O' Life."

The two combined their voices during King's "Crying in the Rain" and "You've Got a Friend." King also sang most of the leads during "Up On the Roof," a song she wrote that Taylor took to No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100.

While it was great seeing photos and slow-motion images of the two when they were younger flash across the screens, their voices didn't quite complement each other until the final tune "You Can Close Your Eyes."

When all was said and done, however, the audience didn't mind and sang along throughout the night.