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

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Traveling Circus Gains Soul in Elvis' Birthplace

It was a hot and balmy night. I always wanted to write a story that started out that way, much like Snoopy when he writes his Red Baron stuff. It was warm, overcast, and showers around the area. We drove through a few showers on our drive to Tupelo. By the time we found a place to park, the rain stopped and the sun came out. So did the heat!

We had packed several coolers with food and water only to find out we couldn’t take them in. Not ones to waste food, we decided to have a tailgate party outside the festival gates. Hmmm! Sandwich makings with veggies and dips! After cleaning up from our snack, we grabbed our lawn chairs and headed for the entrance to the back side of the stage where Taylor Hicks was going to perform later.

At 6:00 pm we had to settle for the right side facing the stage. Security blocked off where we wanted to go, so we took our spots in for the fourth or fifth row depending on the staggering of the chairs already there! Several friends spotted us and came over to speak. It was like a family reunion of the Soul Patrol of sorts. I had the chance to talk with a number of people I’ve meet this past year on my travels to see Taylor Hicks or Little Memphis Blues Orchestra in concert.

As we sat and waited for the appointed time, there was other entertainment for us before Taylor. It was obvious who the crowd was there to see. No question about it! Probably three-fourths of the audience was there solely for Taylor! Heck, there were five in my little group alone! They audience was from all over, not just Mississippi or Alabama or Tennessee. Some friends from Texas had driven over for the show! Taylor has a great following, that’s for sure!

I must admit that I had some concerns about Taylor performing with LiMBO at the Elvis Presley Festival. Would this be a bad career move considering Taylor had just ended his first national tour and was getting ready to start the summer tour? How would the boys in the band compare to the tour band from the spring? Any concern would soon be unnecessary! The whole concert would show another deeper, musical side of Taylor!

At one point I thought I caught a glimpse of Taylor wearing a black tee shirt and beige cap pointing towards the stage. But then he disappeared. The announcer can out to tease us about seeing Taylor and told us that Taylor had just finished some backstage stuff. I guess I really did see Taylor after all! He looked great! I was getting excited for show time!

Right at 9:15 the band took the stage – Zippy on drums, Brian on keyboards, Mitch on bass, Jeff on sax and Wynn Christian on guitar (he was standing in for Sam who had a family engagement he needed to attend). Quick intro and Taylor Hicks was right out there in front! Jacket, jeans and black tee shirt that read “STAX” in white letters! Taylor was smiling and his happiness was radiant! He was glad to be there!

We were being treated to a 75-minute show of Taylor Hicks performing Ray Charles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Crocker, and Taylor Hicks to name a few! Taylor performing Taylor Hicks, what a novel idea! What an incredible choice!

Taylor performed some of his own original songs that were written long before American Idol made him a household name with a Soul Patrol following. “Hell of a Day”, “In Your Time” (from his first independent CD by the same name and written when Taylor was a mere 19!), “Hold on to Your Love”, and “Soul Thing”. What a treat to see and hear Taylor do “In Your Time”! I’d read that he performed the song the night before at Alabama Adventures, so I was hoping we’d get the same treat in Tupelo! And we did!

Other songs from the spring tour included “Gonna Move” (also on Taylor’s first major label CD), “Badge”, “Rockin’ Pneumonia & the Boogie Woogie Flu”, “Call Me the Breeze” and “What’d I Say”. The sound was different in Tupelo but just as good as the spring touring band. Taylor was Taylor, moving and dancing across the stage in the manner that only Taylor can call his own. This was Taylor Hicks in his element – entertaining his audience.

Taylor Hicks with Little Memphis Blues Orchestra was an incredible concert! Not to be repetitive, but these guys were so in sync with each other you would have thought they performed together every night! They were tight! They were happy together! They were having a great time in spite of the night heat and infrequent breezes. They were hot! So hot in fact that Taylor’s jacket sleeves were wet and so were his jeans! Now that’s pretty hot!

We all know how gracious Taylor is to other musicians. Several times over the course of the performance he introduced the various members. He even gave Wynn Christian the opportunity to sing his own original “Seven Mile Breakdown”. And then kudos for Jeff for playing both the saxophone and clarinet at the same time! Now that really takes a lot of musical talent! I’ve seen Jeff do this before, and was so happy to see him do it again in Tupelo! From time to time Taylor would go up and play off each musician to spotlight that person. It was incredible to see!

So after all the shows I’d been to this spring, this show was equal to anything else I had experienced. It makes no difference what band backs Taylor Hicks, it is a powerhouse of entertainment! Taylor Hicks commands his band with finesse leaving one to wonder if this was the band he always played with, whether LiMBO or his touring band or any other band he might happen to sit in with. The concert was definitely worth the wait in the heat!

And for those who weren’t aware, Taylor had some very special guests on the stage while he performed. A group of young children, probably 5 to 12 years old were sitting on the left side of the stage. They were hard to see. And when I was able to see them, I could tell they were enjoying Taylor Hicks as much as I was!

There were a couple of ladies on my left that I was talking to while the band set up. They were asking how it was that we knew so much about the band. I made my confession (which would have sent any therapist running for the straight jacket to put me in!) as did the rest of our group. They were amazed at what we’d done, but in the end, they were just as amazed as everyone else at how well Taylor performed! And that’s what I would have expected!

Oh yes, and one member in our little group was there just to tag along (or at least tried to make us think that!)! On the ride home, we got a confession – he, too, enjoyed Taylor! I happen to know that he plans to see Taylor again during the summer!

So after a great night with Taylor, I’m looking forward to his summer tour starting in two week in Big Flats, NY. I’ll be there right along with the rest of the traveling circus!

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