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King thrills crowd with classic style

Carole King kept her word. Although an avowed John Kerry booster, she promised not to stump for him during her concert on Sunday. I didn't hear the "K word" from her lips, but she did push the Rock the Vote campaign, and, being an Idaho resident, she lobbied hard for the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Bill.

Other than that, she played music -- and played it with sheer beauty and class.

King performed for a near-capacity crowd paying up to $82 a ticket for the nostalgic privilege of having her go through four decades of hit-making. Once again we were reminded of just how vast a repertoire she has forged, from '60s hits for Steve Lawrence ("Go Away Little Girl"), the Shirelles ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow") and the Monkees ("Pleasant Valley Sunday"), to her own definitive '70s pop work from the "Tapestry" album, on up to TV themes and soundtracks in more recent times. Frankly, one would be hard-pressed to find many females -- or males, for that matter -- who have made an equal contribution. And here's a quick factoid: With her husband of the time, Gerry Goffin, King co-wrote more than 50 songs that hit the Top 40 in the '60s golden age of pop/R&B.

Anyway, it was icon time at the FleetBoston Pavilion -- and King didn't disappoint. She announced she was 62 years old, but didn't act it. She was upbeat nearly throughout, pounding on an acoustic piano and playing acoustic guitar in a trio that included longtime guitar accompanist Rudy Guess and newly added guitarist Gary Burr from Nashville.

King was extremely conversational, although she admitted that "I have fewer gigabytes of memory than I used to." Her self-deprecating humor kept the audience at ease -- and so did the staging of her "Living Room Tour," which featured sofas, lamps, and plants.

King's musicality shone forth in two generously long sets -- the first featuring some latter-day material such as "Love Makes the World," the title track from her last studio album in 2001.

The first set also featured her classics "Jazzman" and the rollicking "Smackwater Jack" while letting Burr stretch out on a couple of songs he wrote, including "Nobody Wants to Be Lonely," which Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera have recorded.

The second set was more pure nostalgia, but King, except for an occasionally raspy vocal, still navigated it with elan. She thrilled the crowd with the ballad "So Far Away" (dedicating it to the troops in Iraq) and the vintage "Natural Woman" (OK, she didn't do it as well as Aretha Franklin, but King wrote it) and a lovely encore of "You've Got a Friend," which coincidentally, was accompanied by Democratic National Convention-related fireworks in the distance.

The scene almost looked scripted, but then, King has always made things look easy -- for four decades and counting.

Carole King
At: FleetBoston Pavilion, Sunday

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