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playhouse whitley bay

You’ve Got A Friend review


The Music of James Taylor and Carole King – Playhouse Whitley Bay


~a guest Blog by John Gregson from Blade Printers for Nights Out In Newcastle.

As a last-minute request, I was asked to cover “You’ve got a friend”, a new show from Maple Tree Entertainment which chronicles the music and long-term friendship of singer song writers Carole King and James Taylor.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether to review this show, I didn’t know too many Carole King songs and hadn’t even heard of James Taylor – not really the best of starts.  After digging out and listening to a few songs, and watching the odd video, I was a little intrigued, so accepted the challenge of being guest blogger and to pass critique on this new touring concert at Playhouse Whitley Bay.

Carole King had fame early on in her career, co writing her first hit “Will you love me tomorrow” for the Shirelles, at only 17, along with her husband Gerry Goffin.  This partnership worked well, together they went on to pen hits for the likes of Bobby Vee “Take good care of my baby”, The Drifters “Up on the roof” and the un-forgetable track, “Locomotion” for Little Eva. While recording her first solo album “Writer” she met James Taylor who provided backing vocal and acoustic guitar on this album.  A year later “King” released her second album “Tapestry” which was recorded at the same time, using the same musicians, as Taylor’s “Mud Slide Slim” album. “You’ve got a friend” appeared on both albums, King wrote it, but it was Taylor who had the hit with this catchy song, reaching the dizzy chart heights of No.1.  The rest is history – which hopefully, we’ll learn a lot more about in tonight’s show.

Arriving early we skipped the bar for a change and headed straight into the auditorium to find our seats and take in the atmosphere. Row L seats 9 and 10 – just right of stage approximately 12 rows back with an excellent view, they’ll do for me.  The audience was made up mainly of couples in their 50’s, 60’s and some in their 70’s – a really nice mix with loads of chat going on about the various shows they’ve seen over the past few months.  Five minutes to curtain and the room’s only two-thirds full, unfortunately, when the lights dim, it wasn’t much fuller, crying shame really, they’re going to miss a treat – and so they did.

The vacant stage has a minimalistic lay out with a drum kit at the back, flanked either side by a bass and lead guitars, both left unmanned on their stands.  These are accompanied by a white piano with a small bunch of red roses, placed subtly on top. The stage lights were left off at this point with the only light, casting low-key shadows around the stage, coming from two household standard lamps – simple, but effective. A huge printed curtain, with the shows name emblazoned across it, acts as a backdrop and finishes the stage off nicely. The audience is silent as Carole King (Kyla Brown) takes to the stage, sits, gently loosens her sandals, and discards them for the night. After moving the stool across to the piano, she starts the first number “So far away”, well it wasn’t, it was simply stunning, her voice is “Carole King” to a T and was enhanced even further when the band appeared on stage, and joined in.  Next up it’s James Taylor’s turn (Bill Lennon) on acoustic guitar, who has a good bash at “How sweet it is” and nails it with his silky tones, mimicking Taylor effortlessly – his voice almost Dylan-esque at times.  Over the next hour or so they, along with their talented band, take it in turns, alternating between King and Taylor’s back catalogue, complimenting each other with backing vocals and harmonising as if their lives depended on it. The appreciative audience joined in at times, especially when they played a medley of songs wrote by King, but were made famous by other singers, such as “Take good care of my baby” and “the Locomotion” to name but a few. In between each song King or Taylor added narration, telling stories, a little history, and an intro to the next number. The last two songs before the interval were absolute belters, Taylor singing ”Sweet baby James”, King, “Up on the roof” these were crowd pleasers that lead up to a much needed break for the performers – Ice cream time!

The second half starts with King and Taylor alone on stage, lit by subdued lighting – they attempt the song that this show is all about “You’ve got a friend” and made plenty in the audience with that fine effort.  The whole group were well balanced all night, playing song after song to perfection.  Some tracks I recognised as Carole King’s, while a fair few others I remember being hits for other artists – but most, like Quasimodo, rang a bell.  Throughout the night the lead singers stole the show with their superb voices, but were helped enormously by their multi talented band of musicians.  When not playing the bass guitar, Alan Parker also played double bass – Matt Park played lead and also an electric slide keyboard type of instrument (name eludes me).  Not to be left out, Matt Billups played drums and dabbled a little with his bongo’s, in public too. The pace changes a little with the likes of “Jazzman” followed by “It’s too late” both to large applause.  Gospel blues makes an appearance, along with the track “Tonight you’re mine” that they always sing together when playing at the troubadour nightclub.

All too soon it’s nearly 9.45 and time for the show to come to an end.  The stars have left the stage and its now in complete darkness, the audience won’t take this sitting down though, most are up on their feet shouting, whistling, screaming and demanding more. The two standard lamps suddenly illuminate as Kyla Brown takes to the stage for an encore, and, in my humble opinion, she plays the ace card and sings the best track of the night “You make me feel”.  It’s sung to perfection, even Carole King would have goose bumps listening to this angelic voice, hitting the exact same notes she was famed for. As a finale, they all come back on stage and rip straight into “I feel the earth, move” – then its done, the concert is over.  Luckily the exit signs were illuminated, without them the crowd would have trouble making their way out – most were still lost in the music.  If you get the chance to see this show, don’t hesitate like I did – get your tickets now, you won’t regret it. No whistles and bells, just pure music at its best.

~a guest Blog by John Gregson from Blade Printers for Nights Out In Newcastle.



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