Sharing thoughts about Taylor Hicks and concert travels and other musical musings!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Traveling Circus Drives Down Hollywood's Sunset Strip

My daughter dropped me off early in the morning so I could catch my flight to Los Angeles, or LAX, as it’s known. Beautiful day with sunshine and a light breeze. Perfect flying weather. No flight delays today.

After landing at LAX and deplaning, I found the SuperShuttle stand. Told the people where I needed to go. Boarded my shuttle. Off to the hotel, an older Ramada on Wilshire Boulevard, but clean. A friend was picking me up to go to the show and give me a midnight tour of the city.

Shortly after getting to the hotel, I had called to make dinner reservations for us so we could “pass the line” for the show. It was going to be standing room with a few reserved seats. We had reserved seats, but my friend planned to stand.

As we are driving to the House of Blues on Sunset Strip, I’m busy chatting and drinking in the sights. J town, C town, G town. I can’t remember them all now! I was mesmerized seeing the city of Los Angeles. This wasn’t my first time, but was definitely one of my best times! The House of Blues, when we arrived, while typical of the design style, appeared dwarfed by the structures surrounding it. And the side street to the parking area reminded me of the downhill slopes of San Francisco – you know the type – where you hope you have breaks when you reach the bottom of the hill!

After we finished dinner, we went into the venue. It wasn’t very crowded, so getting up close wasn’t going to be much of an issue for my friend. I found my seat in the VIP section on the main floor – one of those high bar stool types of chairs – and sat down.

Just before the show started, two couples took the seats in front of me. The wives sat together so the husbands did as well. They seemed to be there to please their wives (and to make sure they went home with them afterwards, I’m sure!). But the night would change the course of what I would see from this group.

The screen in front of the stage soon lifted, the opening montage of “Goldfinger” started and the band took their places. The drums and symbols began to sound, the guitars and keyboards were plucked, and Brian Less shouted, “Ladies and Gentlemen, TAY-LOR HICKS!”

The crowd started cheering as Taylor took the stage. Gray shirt with cuffs requiring cufflinks, requisite jeans, and boots. No jacket! Boots and no jacket! By the way, the cufflinks appeared to be the once given to Taylor Hicks during his tour of his idol, Ray Charles’ studio. The cufflinks he wore were silver in color and appeared to be rectangular in shape. “Gonna Move” was the opening number, and we were about to be moved!

Next we got “Give Me Tonight”. Heck, with the performance we were going to get, I’d give him every night! Time for an original, “Hell of a Day” tagged with “Brick in the Wall”. Listening to Taylor tagging other songs into any song makes me think this man is a musical genius! The flow for one song to another then back to the original is flawless. Remember the two men sitting in front of me? They were just about to get it – I was going to witness two grown men being baptized in the church of Taylor!

Some “Medicated Goo” to get us rocking and heal anything that ailed us. Taylor was moving across the stage from side to side using some of his more sedate moves. Not the jumping or twirling, but the side to side gyrations with feet apart. I could feel the drums riveting through my seat and Taylor’s voice was strong and clear!

His single from the album, “Just to Feel That Way” was one of the best versions I’d heard! And the funky “My Friend” could be felt in my soul! These guys in front of me were getting excited! Revival was just about to start!

Taylor told us that his next song was written when he was in San Pedro, TX. A few chords sounded like “West Texas Sky” (one of my favorite originals), but instead was “The Deal”. I’m ready….where do I sign! The two guys in front of me needed the pens!

By now I’m noticing the mix of the crowd which is pretty much a mixed bag of gender and ages. And I’m beginning to realize that Taylor is really staying more to the center of the stage. Must be the boots he was wearing, or maybe his aerobic mat was missing.

“Hold On to Your Love” with a Brian Gallagher flute solo was calling us to join the choir. Taylor’s chant of being in LA on a Friday night was interspersed with “I Love LA”. Taylor was singing with such intensity, the veins in his neck were standing up and clearly visible! I thought he was about to explode!

With lots of smiles and finger pointing, Taylor moved into “Compared to What” which is really no comparison to anything else with his intensity unless it would be “Medicated Goo” or “The Runaround”. When he got to the red necks part of the song, Taylor was smiling and pointing to himself! OK, so he tried to make us think he was a red-neck! Right! The intensity of his singing only brightened the color of his skin to red. But red-neck, I don’t think Taylor is! In the midst of all the vocals, we get his famous ‘belly rolls’! Take us to church, Taylor, take us to church!

Mixed in “Heart and Soul” were a couple of tags, one being “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”. Was Taylor talking about himself? Taylor continued the song and when he got to the part about the 2-3 count, he pretended to hit the ball and looked over at Loren Gold to see if Loren was paying attention! Both were grinning like a couple of school boys just caught trying to pull some little girl’s pigtails! Taylor did it a second time, and Loren let us know when were in the ballpark! And then Taylor tops it off by mimicking Al as he playing his bass guitar!

The two men in front of me were baptized right then and there, right in front of me! I heard one say to the other “This is the best entertainment I’ve seen in a long time!” Yep, they were just Taylorized!

A show pleaser, “Wherever I Lay My Hat” brought out the sweat. By now, Taylor was on his second bottle of water. The gray shirt was two shades – dry and wet! Some tagging of “Night Shift” completed the song. Taylor announced the next song, “Soul Thing” was written when he was in Southern Alabama. “Long Way to Go” was intertwined with it.

By the time Taylor was singing “Heaven Knows”, the sweat was standing on the back of his shirt. The back was so wet and the sweat standing that it reminded me of seeing small underground streams flow down a rock wall. Taylor’s sleeves were even getting wet while the bottom of his shirt remained dry. That would be tonight’s mystery. How does the top of the shirt roll water and the bottom of the shirt stay dry? I’m still pondering that one!

“The Maze” was next including some tagging that I didn’t recognize. It didn’t matter – I was busy watching Taylor command Felix on the drums. Lots of rolls and beats. A wave of the hand and the boom hit the drums. Taylor by now needed to wipe the sweat from his face and clear his nose. A quick segway was made to “The Right Place”. Yes, we were definitely in the right place tonight!

When he finished, Taylor told us about going to Grammy in the Schools earlier in the day. He met a young man there who told him he needed a trumpet player in the band. The young man got the job! Taylor introduced him as he walked up to take his place with the rest of the band. “The Runaround” was about to have some more horn! And lots of harp!

“The Runaround” incorporated “Big Boss Man”. I thought Taylor was going to eat that harp! The strong pulls and blows were intense. And then Bobby got his trumpet solo! We got “Soul Patrol” acknowledgements. Taylor danced off the stage and shook a few hands in the process. The two men in front of me were very excited. They had just witnessed a great show!

As the stage cleared, the Ray Charles statue got the spotlight. The stage got a stool. We were getting an encore with a guitar solo. The next song was about relationships and “The Fall” was being performed. Not the first time on the tour, but the first time for me to witness. Some ‘la, la, la’ and “The Games People Play” finished the song.

As the rest of the band returned to the stage, Taylor commented on the wonderful perfume that Melanie always wears. As she walked behind him, Taylor bent at the waist and leaned back to follow her scent. Later, outside, after the show, Melanie was overheard saying it must have been her hair butter that Taylor was smelling!

Taylor wanted to get funky as we got “Naked in the Jungle”. During the ‘speak out’ parts, Al did a bass solo. Some “Take You Higher” and “Boom Boom” and sending the squares home! Taylor took Brian Less’ organ as Brian stepped back to hold the microphone. Taylor on the keys – what a sight to behold!

As Taylor was acknowledging the band and waving good night, he handed his harp to a child on the front row! Talk about being a class act! Talk about an excited child! The show was over, Taylor was off the stage, and Brian Less was pounding the keys so hard and fast that it looked like he was brushing the family dog! The concert ended and the house lights come on.

The two men were shaking their heads in amazement. The wives didn’t seem to notice. We chatted for a moment – they were definitely going to see Taylor again! Once was not going to be enough for them! WHOOO! Two more converts! Two more fans! Two more in the house of Taylor!

We made our way outside to see if Taylor would come out and sign autographs. It seems like we were out that for two hours, talking to other fans and band members. But no Taylor. We decided to leave and go for a midnight tour of LA.

For another two hours, give or take, I was taken on a guided tour of the city. Wilshire, Rodeo, La Brea tar pits, museums, shops, famous restaurants the stars like to frequent, downtown, Century City, the I-10. It was a beautiful drive. Even drove down the Santa Monica pier to listen to the ocean! LA is a beautiful city at night. Peaceful in some places. Wealth and middle-class interspersed between the shopping areas. I could see why Taylor loves LA, and why my friend found it a good place to be.

We went back to my hotel to catch a nap before trekking out in the morning for our next adventure. If I thought the lights of LA and Hollywood were impressive, wait till I see the lights of Las Vegas! The traveling circus was on the move.

Pictures: This is normally where I link my pictures to share. Unfortunately, the House of Blues has a very strict ‘No Camera’ policy and Friday night would not be an exception. So folks, I’m very sorry to say that the only pictures I have are the ones in my mind.

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