Sunday, August 8, 2004

Never mind that the crowd on the lawn felt the sky raining down on their heads long before Carole King led them singing “I Feel the Earth Move (Under my Feet).” Many of them had waited 10 years to see the fabled songwriter return to the Wolf Trap stage. A 20-minute shower that ended when the lights came up didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.

Wednesday night was worth the wait. Miss King, 62, sang the title track from her most recent recording, 2001’s “Love Makes the World,” and played a handful of songs from the 1990s. With backing guitarists Gary Burr and Rudy Guess, she even improvised a song on the spot to demonstrate the songwriting process.

But Miss King spent most of her two hours on the Filene Center stage performing songs from the 1960s and early ‘70s, when she and co-writer Gerry Goffin were writing the soundtrack of a generation, crafting songs that remain as comfortable as a pair of well-worn blue jeans.

Not many American songwriters aside from Chuck Berry can claim they were covered by the Beatles. Miss King performed “Chains” near the end of the concert, a standard in rock joints in Liverpool, England, and around the world, which appeared on the Beatles’ first album, “Please Please Me,” in 1963.

It is said that young John Lennon and Paul McCartney aspired to be as successful a songwriting team as Goffin/King.

Miss King’s songs have also been covered by the Monkees, James Taylor, Herman’s Hermits, the Chiffons, Grand Funk Railroad and Donny Osmond.

“Welcome to my living room,” Miss King sang impromptu, early in the show, nodding to the capacity crowd from behind the grand piano, then toward the stage set with a sofa, chair, floor lamp — even a coffee table stacked with books and magazines and a sage green candle.

Her 19-city “Living Room Tour” started in Chicago July 15. It marks her first tour in a decade. She said it was inspired by intimate concerts in people’s living rooms she had played in recent years.

“This is one of my favorite venues, and you are the reason why,” she said to cheers before kicking off “Up on the Roof,” one of a dozen songs she performed that she wrote or co-wrote in the ‘60s.

Fresh from her appearance in Boston at the Democratic National Convention, Miss King told the crowd that her “living room is nonpartisan.” She urged people to vote this November and counseled against being persuaded by attack ads. “Do your homework, make up your own mind and vote,” she said.

But Miss King brought the house to its feet when she burst into a medley of seven songs just before intermission.

“Here we are in the 2000s, and I want to take you back to the ‘60s,” she said. The songs were hits for Bobby Vee, Aretha Franklin and B.J. Thomas, among others: “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “It Might as Well Rain Until September,” “Go Away Little Girl,” “Oh, No, Not My Baby,” “Hey Girl,” “One Fine Day” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”

Miss King returned from the break to perform the new “Loving You Forever” duet she recently co-wrote with Mr. Burr, and then followed with three of her popular songs from 1971: “It’s Too Late,” “So Far Away,” which she dedicated to the troops serving in the Middle East, and “Sweet Seasons.”

Mr. Burr, former lead singer of Pure Prairie League, had his turn at the mike, too, singing “Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me,” his 1982 hit for Juice Newton, and his more recent “Nobody Wants to be Lonely.” This helped Miss King indulge one of her own fantasies: “to stand up and play guitar with the guys.”

While on guitar, Miss King sang “Smackwater Jack,” one of nine songs she performed Wednesday from “Tapestry,” the 1971 Grammy-winning album of the year, which established her as a solo performer as well as songwriter. “Tapestry” this year was added to the National Recording Registry as one of America’s most historically, culturally or aesthetically significant sound recordings.

She closed the concert with another “Tapestry” song, “I Feel the Earth Move.”

The appreciative audience brought Miss King back twice for encores. She led the crowd in singing “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman,” and then returned to perform two final songs: “You’ve Got a Friend,” which won the 1971 Grammy for best song and earned James Taylor a Best Male Vocal Grammy as well; and the 1962 Little Eva hit “The Loco-Motion.”

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