LIVE: Carole King – BST Hyde Park 03.07.16

Following an impressive and uplifting set from Eagles frontman Don Henley – including singalong gems such as ‘New York Minute’ and ‘Hotel California’, and a moving tribute to Glenn Frey –  comes a moment I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for…

As clips of celebrity fans, including Tom Hanks and Elton John, appear on screen – interspersed with footage of the making of Tapestry – Carole King takes to the stage. Adorned in black sequins (though she doesn’t need those to sparkle) she takes her seat at the piano as those first crashing chords of ‘I Feel The Earth Move’ are greeted by 50,000 cries of joy. And I’m instantly spellbound. I can’t put into words just how incredibly excited and honoured I feel to be witnessing King’s first UK concert in 27 years, and the first time she’s ever played the whole of the 1971 legendary album in its entirety; as this woman shines brighter than the July sun, the huge, multi-generational crowd instantly unite in their adoration for her.

From those first pounding chords of ‘I Feel The Earth Move’, to the emotion-strewn power of final track ‘Natural Woman’, tears fill my eyes and I’m completely captivated. Each and every offering pulls at the heartstrings with more force than I ever expected, as this 74 year old delivers each track with as much gusto as ever before.

Tapestry means the world to me for a number of reasons, as I’m sure is true for everyone here. It is my mum’s favourite album (she once even dressed up as Carole King at one of my childhood birthday parties); my partner played me the record on one of our first dates, hoping to impress me with some cool, never-heard-before music, only to be told it was my mum’s favourite album; with all its heartfelt emotion, the record has been one I’ve always turned to. When I was ill last year, for example, I made a ‘Positivity Memory Tape’ for Lauren Laverne’s 6 Music show, and ‘Beautiful’ was of course featured – such is its motivational and uplifting power.

A sense of unity fills the air as 50,000 of us sing along to each song, and I’m certainly not the only one with tears rolling down my cheeks. As each relatable lyric flows from the stage, it couldn’t feel any more special and unified if we were all standing in a circle, holding hands. Plenty of hands are being held, however: mine and my partner’s, my friend and her mum’s… Everyone here – whatever their age or gender – has come together in their love for this incredible woman and this timeless record.“You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running…” we all sing to each other as the sun begins to set.

To think, Carole King – whose music has accompanied me my whole life – is up there, giving it her all on the piano, her vocals as powerful and smooth as ever before (despite her apologies for not reaching certain notes), her humble and warm-hearted nature oozing from the stage across the thousands of people. As she pauses after each song to wipe away a tear and gasp “Oh My God”, it’s clear that tonight means the world to Carole King, and I just want to give her a hug and thank her for everything. It’s more awe-inspiring and truly spectacular than I could ever have hoped for.

Breaking from the continuity of the Tapestry order, by means of introduction to ‘Where You Lead’, King tells us how she re-wrote the lyrics of the song for ‘Gilmore Girls’ – from being about a man, to about a mother-daughter relationship. And, right on cue, King’s daughter Louise Goffin joins her on stage for a moving rendition of the altered track. A deeply touching duet, as love between mothers and daughters everywhere flows through the dusk air as this inspiring woman continues her momentous set.  

Wiping away the tears as the sweeping emotion of ‘Natural Woman’ draws a close to the album’s tracks, King exultantly exclaims “So, this is what 74 looks like!” before launching into a ‘medley’ of songs that she and Gerry Goffin wrote together. Basically, name a ‘60s pop hit, they probably wrote it… From the deeply romantic ‘One Fine Day’ to party anthem ‘The Locomotion’ (my friends and I promptly make a chain), she races through five of her greatest hits with an abundance of joy-filled energy.

Ending the set with the cast of the West End production of ‘Beautiful’  joining the protagonist for a mini encore of ‘I Feel The Earth Move’, my only disappointment as the legendary Carole King leaves is that she’s disappeared about twenty minutes before the 10.15 curfew. I’m left longing to witness the whole spectacle over, as it seems to have faded into a fuzzy, tear-stained blur of emotion and wonder. It’s a blur I’ll never forget, though – an exceptional, memorable experience that I feel truly honoured to have been a part of. Thank you Carole King, for inspiring me, my mother before me, and women everywhere, and for delivering one of the most special nights of music I’ve ever seen. 

Mari Lane

As the sun soaks the fake trees of the BST Great Oak stage, huge images of Michael Kiwanuka fill the screens; the perfect blue sky and white cloud combo reflected in the round sunglasses that, along with the denim shirt, give him a look of Lenny Kravitz. While his band has funk, he delivers something with a little more soul; timeless outros are extended for the stage and trickle into the air. Naturally, with the headliner in mind, this is a predominantly older crowd (it’s unlikely you’ll ever see so many picnic blankets at a “gig”), but Kiwanuka’s classic sound holds their attention, with those early comparisons to Otis Reading and Bill Withers earning their stature. New track ‘Black Man In A White World’ only emphasises this, with the only downside to the set the realisation that some of the themes those aforementioned artists experienced are still, sadly present. Music is powerful, though, and this message is strong and beautiful.

Elsewhere Rae Morris takes to the Barclaycard Stage, telling the crowd that she begged to play on the same bill as Carole King. While there aren’t many female singer/songwriters who wouldn’t cite King as an influence, the ethereal electronics of Morris’ work have more in common with Kate Bush, particularly ‘Under The Shadows’, which gallops along like ‘Running Up That Hill’.

Dan Bull

Photo Credit: Dave Hogan