Thursday, February 22, 2007
The Traveling Circus of Fans - Yep, I'm One of Them!
The Florida Theatre - Jacksonville, FL
We’ve been called a lot of names: Soul Patrol, rabid middle-age overweight housewives, and traveling circus of fan. I think I’ll use the first and last tags to describe myself. Since I’m drooling rather than foaming at the mouth, I can’t be rabid. Ok, middle-age, overweight, maybe, but definitely not a housewife!
A group of about 60 or so female fans from the Boogie Board came together to take part in the traveling circus, meeting at the Cedar Grill for a food and drinks before the show. Amid laughter, camera flashes, moving tables and chairs, we greeted each other with the same warmth we shared on the board. I recognized a number of screen names. Ladies I didn’t know recognized me from pictures I’d recently posted from meeting Taylor in New Orleans for the Endymion Mardi Gras week-end just the past week-end (February 16-17). We made new friends and visited with old friends from the American Idol Summer Tour. For several very lucky ladies, a meet-and-greet followed our gathering before the show. No, I wasn’t one of the lucky ones, but that’s alright – I’ve met Taylor on several occasions, including the Endymion week-end.
Taylor’s first major solo tour started Wednesday night in Jacksonville, FL at the beautiful Florida Theatre. Its rich gold tones and sculpted ceiling and high stage were perfect for the evening. How appropriate that Taylor acknowledged that Elvis opened his very first solo tour in the same theatre! A bit of déjà vu since Taylor has often been compared to Elvis. Both have their own distinct singing style, dance wildly, and have a female following that only an Arabian sheik could outnumber.
On the third row to the right of stage, there I sat patiently waiting for Taylor to hit the stage. When the opening act, The Greyhounds from Austin, TX, took the stage, the crowd screamed loudly. One of the members said thanks for the acknowledgement but that they were just the opening band. Who cared! The show was starting and Taylor was on his way.
The Greyhounds were surprisingly good. I’d never heard them before, so I really had nothing to base any observations upon. The musicians, playing keyboard, guitar and drums, made a nice jazz group. I have to relearn musical styles since I’ve been out of the scene for a long time, but their sound reminded of jazz. They are old school – sing and play, play and sing – and that made listening so much more enjoyable.
When The Greyhounds finished about 30 minutes later, their equipment was quickly moved and Taylor’s equipment moved into place. The lights dimmed, and Taylor’s name lit up in the back of the stage between the curtains. It was show time!
The band came out first and started to play. Then Brian Less, organist and member of Little Memphis Blues Orchestra, announced Taylor (at least the announcer sounded like Brian!). Taylor took the stage – jeans, famous white shirt, dark gray jacket, and New Balance sneakers – beginning the set with “Soul Thing”.
Taylor promised music from his indie albums, “In Your Time” and “Under the Radar” as well as his post American Idol CD self-titled “Taylor Hicks” as well as a few covers. This man promises and he delivers. As Taylor often says, ‘It’s all good!’ He was right – it truly was all good!
From his self-titled album, Taylor sang “Heaven Knows”, “The Maze”, “Wherever I Lay My Hat”, “Dream Myself Awake”, “Just to Feel That Way”, “The Runaround”, “Gonna Move”, and finally “The Right Place”. “The Runaround” was pretty much what we saw during the holidays with the twirling and turning and rapid dance steps. But “The Right Place” was enough to make a grown man cry! I thought he was going to since “Georgia” but quickly realized it was “The Right Place”. Tears were starting to form, but never flowed. To me, this was the crowning glory in the show. Pure perfection, sung from the heart by a man who sees Ray Charles as his mentor and idol. Pride, that I was there to witness and hear such a beautiful song, pride that I had picked a winner, pride that Taylor was doing what he loved most and was giving it his best.
Taylor’s, “The Deal”, was included. In case you didn’t already know it (and what die hard fan doesn’t!), Taylor wrote “The Deal” as well as “Soul Thing”. Other songs included “Taking It to the Streets” (without the windup we saw on American Idol), a tag of “Heart and Soul” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”, and his surprising rendition of Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks”. Now that was another incredible performance!
I don’t know how far back the audience was standing, but the first several rows hardly ever sat down, including me. From time to time I did prop myself up on the folded seat. I watched as much of the show behind the camera as I did without the camera. Being only about 10 feet from the stage, I wanted to capture as much of Taylor as possible. I was very lucky – I took a number of great shots! I’ll post the link for your viewing pleasure. (http://s95.photobucket.com/albums/l154/RagsQueen/ and select the album you want to view)
Taylor sang non-stop for at least 75 minutes with some chatting to the audience. I think this might have been done to give him a chance to catch his breath. In a voice blog found on GrayCharles, Taylor said he had been under the weather and after a few injections was about 80% himself. If what I saw tonight was Taylor at 80%, ‘heaven knows’ what he will be like at 100%!!!!
Taylor was nothing short of a swirling dervish with his dancing. The spins, turns, leg gyrations that resemble a funky Charleston minus the hand movements, jumping, bouncing, - WOW! What a boundless bundle of energy! He worked so hard that his shirt was soaked, at least in the front. The jacket had to be hot, but Taylor, this being part of his performance attire, kept it on.
“The Right Place” was the last song in the set. Taylor ended by saying ‘thank you for letting me be myself.’ It was a fitting way to close the show. As Taylor left the stage, the crowd wildly called for Taylor to come back. We weren’t ready for the show to end. The musicians left the stage and the crew moved in to breakdown the equipment.
Suddenly the drums were reset and the musicians returned. Taylor came back for one more song. He closed his first performance of his tour with “Long Train Running”, a Doobie Brothers’ cover. As quickly as he had taken the stage for the encore, Taylor was gone again. The house lights came on and the first show was officially over.
Yes, we had been at ‘the right place’ tonight. And Taylor was amazing, delivering everything he had promised. I can’t imagine how the tour will progress and get any better. I’ll find out Thursday in Tampa at the Tampa Theatre if there is any way to do the show any better.