English singer, Phoebe Katis has a voice that suits the songs of Carole King wonderfully well. It is clear, pitch perfect and deftly controlled so that the full range of emotion contained within these songs is fully communicated without the annoying interference of surplus notes, or extraneous syllable bending, that so many modern singers are prone to employ.
Katis’ Adelaide Fringe show, The Carole King Story, is the second Night Owl production I have seen at this year’s event, and based on the high quality of both of these, I will be seeking out the Night Owl name in future years and making sure I check out whatever else this English crew bring across to our shores, as they have quickly established their brand as being synonymous with excellence.
Carole King fronted the first vanguard of confessional singer-songwriters who emerged in the late sixties ready to openly share their full emotional selves with their audiences. Her songs were often as stark and direct as they were beautifully constructed, and the core appeal of these songs was their infectious melodies and the fact that the emotions they explored were never buried beneath layers of over-production.
Clearly, Katis approaches these classic songs with the same fierce desire to deliver them with honesty and the full emotional range that fuelled the heart of the original versions. She is an exceptional pianist and she ensured all of King’s infectious riffs and idiosyncratic flourishes were present in all the right places, satisfying even the most pernickety of the superstar songwriter’s fans.
This show, as you would probably expect, is heavily centred around songs from King’s ground-breaking Tapestry album, but there is also an interesting selection of songs covered from her earliest songwriting days.
Choosing to start the show with a beautifully rendered version of Way Over Yonder, Katis’ perfect enunciation of the words, and the warmth and precision of her performance, quickly quelled any concern that this show may have been just another production line tribute show.
She followed this opening number with a short, historically significant, but somewhat slight, early pop song – King’s first ever recording, Baby Sittin’, before establishing for her audience just how quickly King grew into a masterful pop songwriter by contrasting this with a lovely version of The Shirelles’ hit, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow which was written not long after.
Wisely, Katis offered up only a quick instrumental snippet of The Locomotion, a song best left to be sung by adolescents, before recounting the story of King’s disappointment at the reception she initially received when playing It Might As Well Rain Until September on Bandstand. Katis’ version of this early classic was another winning performance in a show filled with such triumphs.
A run of Tapestry‘s biggest hits (and they were all accounted for), whilst generally remaining true to their original arrangements, were given a charmingly different quality by the slightly higher register of Katis’ vocal.
Dan Clews, who is currently appearing in his own excellent James Taylor tribute at the Fringe, joined Katis for Up On The Roof, the song she had chosen to usher in the story of how these two pop tunesmiths, King and Taylor, had each contributed to the other’s meteoric rise to chart success, and the two English singers’ voices complimented each other perfectly during this performance.
The unexpected highlight of the show for me was an incredibly moving and beautiful version of the song, Tapestry, a track often shamefully overlooked when people think of, or discuss the album to which it gives its title. The purity and majesty of Katis’ performance during the song sent chills down my spine.
The penultimate song in the show was Maybe, one of Katis’ own compositions, and one which features on her solo album, Honesty, which is to be released on April 11 this year. The song – and her explanation of why her mother does not like it so much – was well received by the audience, and I am sure there were more than a few in attendance who will be seeking out the new record as soon it becomes available.
The show’s closer was I Feel The Earth Move, and whilst the venue did not actually hold enough patrons to initiate any earth moving shockwaves through the spontaneous eruption of loud applause at show’s end, there was certainly a lot more than a mere ripple of enthusiastic appreciation in the air.
Night Owl have tested the waters in Adelaide during this year’s Fringe season and have found them to their liking. They are now promising to come back next year, with even more shows.
Watch out for the Night Owl name in next year’s Fringe program guide – then when you find it, promptly buy tickets because word of mouth from those who have attended this year’s shows will almost certainly guarantee these shows will sell-out quickly.
Rating: 5 stars
The Carole King Story is presented by Night Owl Shows & Garage International, and will be performed until 16 March. Tickets are available HERE.