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

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Traveling Circus Does the Crawfish Crawl to New Orleans

Most of us woke up wondering where the night had gone or whatever possessed us to stay out until dawn or why did I have to play so many slot & poker machines! I’m guilty as charged on probably all three counts. The last three nights with this band of escape artists has been a lot of fun, and tonight in New Orleans promises to only be better! We’re all quite tired from our late night outings so the best we can do is to crawl, or drive real fast and hope our eyelids don’t close, as we drive to our final show of the week-end.

I think some have dubbed this week-end “the hot and humid tour”! The sun was bright and hot as we loaded up the vehicles. And with all the water around us, humidity was guaranteed! For everyone’s driving pleasure and sanity, the smokers piled into the SUV while the nonsmokers piled into the van. I’m sure when the SUV arrived at the Marriott in New Orleans it looked like a bunch of circus clowns climbing out of a Volkswagen because more ladies smoked than didn’t! Besides the van and SUV, we had two cars just in case extra room was needed.

Madge decided she wanted to ride shotgun, so she took the center console in the front seat. We had a good idea as to how to get to New Orleans, but just in case, Madge might prove helpful if needed. She won lots of praise for helping us find the New Orleans International Airport, because the van driver was leaving us before the show! So my group headed for the airport as the other vehicles made their way to the hotel. Well, I should say, my group got out at the car rental and then took a shuttle to the airport to get a cab to the hotel. We had a nice overview tour of the city this way!

As we drove into New Orleans we could still see a lot of destruction from Hurricane Katrina nearly two years ago. The homes that were habitable were few and far between where we were. A few businesses had come back but most of the area was still in need of either repair or demolition. It was really a very sad sight to see. Some of the houses still had the search marks on the front. It’s hard to comprehend the massive destruction without actually seeing it. And this was 2 years later!

After checking into the hotel, a few in our group decided to head to Harrah’s for some games of chance (a.k.a., lose some change) while others decided to forage for lunch or rest. I was in the rest group. I was also hungry, but also too tired to go look for a place to eat! I decided to wait until closer to 5:30 to leave the hotel to go to the House of Blues to pick up my laminate that I won because of the pre-sale at Taylor Hicks Headquarters. When I got there, the lucky winners of a meet & greet were lining up and just starting to go in. I enjoyed watching the expressions as they entered the room and then returned after seeing Taylor up close and personal!

Those of us who can eat fish met at the hotel so we would go to Acme Seafood for dinner. I love fried crawfish tails so a crawfish po’ boy was in order for my dinner! The food was very good, and most would need to walk to the House of Blues just to be able to stand for the concert! Me, I took a cab! Why walk when you can ride! Before you think I’m just plain lazy, it was very hot and heat and I don’t mix, much less walking long distances or standing for long periods of time. Survival won – I took the cab!
By the time we got to House of Blues it was just about time for the opening act – a big bass and guitar by some group whose name escapes me and whose act lasted way too long. Even though they were only on stage for 30 minutes or so, their performance was still way too long – not my kind of music – bluegrass and Cajun perhaps. Less said the better.

Finally the band takes the stage and does their opening montage and Loren Gold shouts out “TAYLOR HICKS”! Taylor takes the stage saying “New Orleans is back!” The opening song is “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”. No sign of illness in this number! The crowd is packed into the front of the stage all the way to the back wall where I’m perched on a stool. I won’t get to see much through the bobbing heads, but listening to the concert will provide a new and wonderful experience!

“Heaven Knows” follows. The crowd is moving about and dancing in place. People are jockeying for better viewing positions. I’m just sitting and listening. The mix is about even between the genders and the ages range from 21 to well over 60! And I’m somewhere in between. Ok, closer to 60 than 21, but I’m still under the high age! I know, the white hair is hard to hide! Just look at the skin tone, please!

Next is “Just to Feel That Way”. I’m starting to get a bit jealous because I can’t really see or take pictures. The sign at the door said no cameras, and mine is safely tucked in the camera bag on the floor. However, I see lots of flashes going off and security trying to stop the cameras. One lady, after being warned several times, was physically removed from the floor and taken out the door. Don’t flash and you won’t get stopped seemed to be the motto.

“Compared to What” made an appearance tonight. I don’t recall if there was any cowbell, but if there was, this was the song to play it! I continued to listen and watch the crowd, noticing that people were still moving around, and the back crowd was moving forward to mesh with the front group.

Then it happens. Taylor sings “Somehow”. Listening rather than watching has paid off when I’m able to hear the new variations in the song. My word, I’m hoping someone is getting this on video – the melody is beautiful and the changes just added to its charm. No words can describe what I was hearing, but I was falling in love with the song all over again. And yes, there is video out there, bless that courageous soul!

“The Maze”, “My Friend”, “The Right Place” and “Medicated Goo” follow “Somehow”. I listen intently for other changes in the songs. With “The Right Place”, I know being in New Orleans is right, because the energy is so high and hot that Taylor’s gray shirt is drenched again tonight. Taylor made the right decision when he decided to shed the jackets for the summer tour, except maybe when he’s performing in a theatre setting. Aside for that, I think the fans love the tee shirts and relaxed look! I continue to shake my head in disbelief as I try to see what’s going on in front of me. Some dancing Taylor, a little Al boogie and a lot of harp, sax and Josh on guitar! It’s a real good listen, and my ears are perked to catch it all!

The first set of songs wind up with “Hold On to Your Love”, “Gonna Move”, “Use Me”, and “The Runaround”. I don’t recall having heard the entire “Use Me” before. Perhaps in some tags, but that was it. The crowd had stopped moving about so much, and couples are standing behind one another with the men’s arms around the ladies. What a sight! (And I’m all alone!) When “The Runaround” was over, Taylor said his good-byes and left the stage for the band to finish up the song. Then the band left.

People start to leave and I want to stop them, but heck, if they leave, maybe I can see better! So I selfishly let them leave. Taylor comes back out alone for the encore. He’s changed from the wet gray shirt to a brown short sleeve tee shirt. The stool of soul, I think came out (remember I can’t see that much!), his acoustic guitar and harmonica strapped around his neck. Would we get to hear “Louisiana” like he did a few concerts ago? YES! We are getting to hear Taylor Hicks perform “Louisiana 1927” as an acoustic solo! It was incredible! And yes, there’s video out there somewhere! Bless you! Bless you!

When Taylor finished, the band came back out and they did “Soul Thing”, an original from Taylor’s pre-Idol days! Now Taylor is wearing a black tee shirt that says “I Speak Jive” on the front that a fan had requested. This is the most wardrobe changes I’ve seen! And to get a second encore song with the band! When the song was over, Taylor left the stage telling the Soul Patrol he’d see us later!

As the crowd was leaving, a couple that had been standing next to me before the show started stopped by to tell me how much they enjoyed the show, and that I was right, one show was not enough! They had been Taylor Hicks fans during the American Idol show, voting numerous times to see that Taylor continued on each week. I had told them not expect anything like they saw on the TV show – they would see a much better Taylor on the House of Blues stage. And Taylor did not disappoint!

As the House of Blues emptied, our troupe found its way outside and near the buses. Several were on the sidewalk in front of Taylor’s bus, a few across the street, and me, I was in the middle of the street next to the trailer rails. As we talked among ourselves, we saw Bill and Taylor jump on the bus with the help of the bus driver. The area between the door and bus was maybe 4-5 feet at best, or the width of the sidewalk. The bus driver seemed to pull Taylor on the bus as Bill pushed him. The crowd was thick on the sidewalk side of the bus, and may have moved towards the rail in front of them. It was hard to tell. Taylor went inside the main part of the bus, and a door closed behind him. So much for coming out by the buses!

As we continued to chat, a loud horn was blasted a couple of times. I think I jumped three feet off the ground! When we turned around toward the bus, there was Taylor wearing a red Stax tee shirt waving to us and grinning a very big grin! Before he went back inside the main part of the bus, he blew the horn again, and Bill closed the door behind them! A little time later the bus pulled away and the band was gone!

So what do we do on a hot, steamy New Orleans night after one of the best concerts any of us had ever attended? We took off looking for Café Dumond and frozen café au lait! Oh what a nice cold, sweet treat!

After we finished our drinks, we headed back towards the hotel via cab. We dropped off a few people there and the rest of us headed for Harrah’s. We decided to play for an hour and then head back to the hotel for some sleep. Some of us had early flights while the rest of us had to drive several hundred miles home.

I think we got back to the hotel around 2:30 am, and my roomie and I chatted until after 4:00 about how great the show was, what we lost and won and lost again, how much fun we’d had, how nice it was to be with friends, and how little sleep we’d had over the past couple of nights! Since we rode together in my roomie’s SUV, we’d be driving home the next day. Or in a few short hours since it was now Sunday morning!

We finally got up around 9:30 or so and got ready to head home. We were going to go back to Acme for a quick lunch and then tour the 9th Ward and Garden District since I’d only been to New Orleans only one other time and that was in February for the Endymion Ball. I didn’t get to get to see many sights then because of where we stayed on the outskirts of the Garden District and Mardi Gras going on.

After several hours of driving around we stopped back by Café Dumond for another round of frozen café au laits and regular coffee. How was I going to handle not getting another one of those wonderful frozen coffees when I got back home? I would need another trip to New Orleans!

We talked the entire way home about our fantastic week-end and how great the concerts were! Three nights in a row, Taylor on medications for strep and bronchitis, and the shows just kept getting better! Not that I wish Taylor ill, but when he’s sick, his shows don’t show it and his performance is always outstanding! I know; I just attended four consecutive shows. Forget the first Vicksburg show! The last three were phenomenal! Fantastic! High energy! Hot! The best three shows I’ve seen all summer, and may the entire year that Taylor’s been on his solo tour!

By the time we pulled into the driveway at my roomie’s home, it was rather later. My daughter and granddaughters came over to pick me up and take me home. I was tired, yes, but also wired. I had had a great week-end and was ready to get some rest, do a load of laundry, and get to bed. What to do first! I knew I had 2 weeks before my next trip, so there was plenty of time to catch up. But as I write this recap nearly 10 days later, I’ve discovered I’ve just barely recovered! Hopefully by the time I get to Staten Island, NY, I will have recovered fully so I can enjoy that week-end with another group of friends! Catch you later after that show!

Due to strict camera policy and where I was sitting, there are no pictures from the New Orleans’ House of Blues!

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