Review: Duo take the affecting sounds of Carole King and James Taylor to Belfast stage

Phoebe Katis and Dan Clews in The Carole King and James Taylor Story, which was in Belfast at the Out To Lunch Festival this week
Jane Hardy


The Carole King and James Taylor Story

Out To Lunch Festival


TO YOUTUBE aficionados, one of the great joys for fans of 70s sounds is watching James Taylor link up with his long-time collaborator, the phenomenal Carole King. Their musical synchronicity, and affection, are palpable 45 years or so after they first worked together in New York.

So The James Taylor and Carole King Story delivered by Dan Clews and Phoebe Katis on Thursday evening at Belfast's Black Box venue as one of the Out to Lunch Festival highlights had a lot to do.

In the first half Clews, a good guitarist and singer, played hits and curios including Taylor's first ever record convincingly, between screened excerpts from an American documentary. This was a Sky Arts-style programme, good on the haunted biography. But the format, with Clews adding anecdotes in his English voice and not acting the character, let the material down slightly. The account of the privileged Wasp background that segued into mental illness and drug addiction didn't entirely marry with the musical performance.

I wasn't sure either about the panto-style singalong we did to Shower The People (With Love) but actually, it was great fun. Mature karaoke? Why the hell not!

Yet in the second part Ms Katis's account of Carole King's story brought the energy the evening – and sublime songs – required. She was oomphy and belted out numbers such as Natural Woman, It's Too Late and Will You Still Love Me (Tomorrow)? with real understanding. This wasn't impersonation – although there were clear echoes of Ms King's ballsy vocal style – but a great interpretation and Phoebe Katis knows just what to do with the keyboard.

At the end, we got a duet or two with the music that still resonates from schooldays. Then we got a bit of new material from these singer-songwriters, but what remained as we exited was the affecting sound of Taylor's musical pathos and King's unforgettable soundtrack to female existence.

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