Last night musical history was made in Hyde Park, as Carole King performed her 1971 album Tapestry live for the very first time. Introduced with video messages from figures including James Taylor, Elton John and (bizarrely!) Tom Hanks, King stepped on to the stage; a vision of black glitter and blonde curls. “This is what 74 looks like”, she declared – and 74 certainly looked remarkable! She was visibly moved by the roar that greeted her as she launched into the album’s first track, ‘I Feel The Earth Move’.
King performed her blockbuster album in its entirety, welcoming daughter Louise Goffin onto the stage to duet on ‘Where You Lead’. King explained that she felt uncomfortable performing this song after the advent of the women’s liberation movement, before rewriting it so that it concerned the relationship between a mother and a daughter instead of two lovers. Tapestry concluded with ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Women’, backed by a choir of 50,000.
King went on to perform a melody of songs she wrote with Goffin in the sixties, including ‘One Fine Day’ (recorded by The Chiffons), ‘I’m Into Something Good’ (Herman’s Hermits) and ‘Take Good Care Of My Baby’ (Bobby Vee). She then welcomed saxophonist Jamie Talbot on to the stage for an electric performance of ‘Jazzman’, before an energetic rendition of ‘The Loco-Motion’ (the song that King and Goffin wrote for their babysitter Little Eva, which she went on to make a number one hit.) For the finale King reprised ‘I Feel The Earth Move’, welcoming the cast of her musical Beautiful onto the stage to sing along with her. The extraordinary success of this musical, based on King’s life and music, is a further testament to her enduring legacy.
As Hanks explained in his video message, when Tapestry was released there was “barely a woman on planet earth who didn’t clutch it to their heart”. The way that women cherished this album in the early seventies has clearly endured through generations, as evidenced by the diverse mix of ages in the crowd last night – little girls sang along with their mothers, while groups of older women sang along, arm in arm. Though I was born long after the album was released, it has been one of my favourites since I discovered it as a teenager. The amount of times I have cried and smiled along to its songs are too numerous to count. Seeing the album performed live was, therefore, an emotional experience – I have never seen so many people cry at a concert. This was perhaps, in part, down to the imaginative use of video screens. Watching King perform ‘duets’ with her younger self and late ex-husband Gerry Goffin was intensely poignant. ‘So Far Away’ was especially weepy. It was extraordinary to see the audience’s devotion to Carole King- they knew every word to every song.
As the crowd left Hyde Park they spontaneously broke out into a rendition of ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, which they continued singing all the way to Victoria station. Beautiful indeed!