Carly Simon has started a new chapter in her music career - with her first tour in 14 years to promote her out-of-the-ordinary new album, ''Letters Never Sent.''
The packed-in crowd for the soulful pop singer's second concert, which also featured the popular '80s duo Daryl Hall and John Oates, warmly accepted Simon's invitation into her ''home'' - in this case the Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts in Mansfield, Mass. Go to the refrigerator any time you want, she joked, or maybe some people could even play with her dolls later.
Indeed, this was a home date for Simon, a resident of Martha's Vineyard island off of Massachusetts. And she looked at home behind the candle-lined stage front, clad in comfortable pants, a luxurious shoulderless white top, and a gauzy shawl that floated through the air.
Simon's ease on stage should put to rest any questions about her struggle in years past with stage fright. The jitters simply weren't there as her strong voice beautifully delivered some of her most-loved songs, including the '70s hits ''Haven't Got Time for the Pain,'' ''Nobody Does It Better,'' and ''You Belong to Me.''
Another sign of Simon's newfound ease was apparent in the repartee she carried on with the audience, which segued into humorous anecdotes to launch several songs.
Selections from Simon's new album, a multitextured, creative collection of songs based on unsent letters she found in a closet, had a harder edge than some of her other material. The audience rose to its feet for the strong vocals and driving rhythms of her new single, ''Touched by the Sun.'' Simon's son, Ben Taylor, introduced that song with the short interlude ''Time Works on All the Wild Young Men.''
Simon's most powerful number was ''Coming Around Again,'' which stole listeners' hearts when a small group of children filed out on stage to sing the ''Itsy Bitsy Spider'' chorus.
Leaving less of an impression were Hall and Oates, who took the stage for the first half of the concert. An unheralded entrance (only one or two screams emanated from the audience as band members approached their mikes) gave no hint that the duo was wildly successful in the early '80s.
The rhythm-and-blues-influenced pair sang many of their top singles, gaining momentum on their No. 1 hits ''I Can't Go for That'' and ''Rich Girl.'' Hall led the two enthusiastically, alternating between guitar and synthesizer, while Oates, providing voice and guitar harmony, wore a more serious expression.
As a pair, they didn't present new material, which reinforced their '80s image - minus shaggy locks and Oates' thick mustache. Still, the two haven't lost their strong vocal harmonizations, and they carried out a clean and polished performance.
The audience responded well enough to bring on an encore. Only Hall bounded back on stage, though, singing in an almost overpowering voice, ''What's in Your World,'' a song off his new album from Epic.
But Hall and Oates both reappeared during Simon's half of the show, providing vocal and instrumental support. In fact, there was quite a sharing of musicians across the board, as both halves of the concert relied on the same backup performers.
The duo also figured into Simon's encore, several arrangements of the three performers' works for as many main vocalists. But the pieces' harmonies and nuances, particularly in Simon's ''Let the River Run,'' were lost in a sea of amplified sound.
Yet, as the performers exited, it was Simon's expression that summed up the evening. As she headed offstage, a look of triumph and happiness came over her - the look of someone beginning an exciting new chapter of her career.
* Simon will appear in several US cities this summer, including Atlanta on Aug. 3, Cincinnati on Aug. 12, and Columbus, Ohio on Aug. 14.
On Aug. 30, she will perform a benefit concert for the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society's new hall with James Taylor in West Tisbury, Mass.