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

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Traveling Circus Wins the Battle at Vicksburg

There’s nothing better when it comes to the anticipation and fruition of getting together with other Taylor Hicks fans who want to join the traveling circus! This week-end was going to be just one of those times! Four days with some of my favorite showmen and high flying artists! You know who you are! I’m going to protect your reputation by not naming you while I talk about you!

Now I’m not the only known clown from the Memphis area, and I’d soon be joining up with a few of those clowns as well as riding in the rocket ship with another circus member. With only a few hours until show time, it was “hammer down” and watch for the “boogies” as we flew, I mean drove, down to Vicksburg. The South may have lost the battle there, but the Southern Soul Patrol was about to be victorious in the battle for good seats at the Ameristar Casino!

With two nights and two concerts with our ringleader, Mr. Taylor Hicks, we would have plenty of opportunity and time to take our battle positions. Now plenty of seats were available – high rollers and special guests in the front section – and the Soul Patrol filling up the back section and bar seats. Seats weren’t numbered, so it was first grab, first get. Once the doors opened each night at 7:00 pm, it was best that security cleared the doors and moved out of the way as the “soldiers” found their seats with little blood shed or tears. Well, maybe a few tears because we wanted those VIP seats that sat empty each night! On guard, Security, we’ll get them next time!

For the first night, eight of us in our troupe landed at the Ameristar Hotel before storming the casino for the show. We gathered our party and made our way to stake out the theatre to get good seats. Dinner would have to wait until after the show – the line had been forming since early afternoon, and we weren’t going to be very close. OK, with 300 seats, there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house, provided the person in front of you sat down (remember, I’m somewhat of a shortie, and it’s hard to see over the taller people!)

While we waited for the doors to open, we tried our hand and lost some change in the slot machines – some video poker and other games of chance were tried. Those machines aren’t called “one-armed bandits” for nothing! We were robbed, I tell, we were robbed! And yet we kept going back to try to win back our losses. Someone had to cover the hotel bill!

Unbeknownst to us, Taylor was starting to feel a bit under the weather. He’d just had a few days off, but the weather changes and fast pace of the tour must have gotten to him because he was about to find out he had strep and bronchitis! Pass the cough drops, vitamins and vapor rub! With 200 mothers in town, Taylor would have lots of TLC and chicken noodle soup for the asking – problem is – no one asked us!

The Wednesday night show was going to be challenging, to say the least, for Taylor! Between a smaller than usual stage and bright lights in his eyes, Taylor wasn’t able to do a lot of moving about, at least not like he usually does. Not one to usually complain, Taylor did make comments on several occasions about the lights, even squinting and holding his hand over his eyes to better see the audience. He could hear us, but he couldn’t see us! And because Taylor was on the verge of being sick, the show didn’t have the usual energy level. But he made up for that with lots of harp!

Taylor Hicks performed several of my favorite tour songs: “Medicated Goo”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, “Somehow”, “Heaven Knows” and “The Right Place”. I left the concert grateful for these songs, yet disappointed that the energy just wasn’t there. I kept thinking it was the lights but the next day I would know the real reason – strep and bronchitis.

After the concert, a few of us went upstairs for dinner. Not realizing there were two restaurants up there, we got our wires crossed and some of us ended up in different places. Two of us had the buffet, which was really quite good! Josh Smith stopped by for his dinner and sat a couple of tables over from us. He ate quickly and left with little attention. It’s kind of sad to watch these guys put forth so much on the stage and then sit alone afterwards to have dinner.

With dinner behind us, we hit the machines again for a bit. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I kept thinking I was about the hit the jackpot, but alas, only the casino did! What’s that expression, “a fool and his money are soon parted”, and yes, I was the fool! Fortunately, I wasn’t too big of a fool and I didn’t bet the next night’s tickets! So before it got too, too late, we decided to head back to the hotel and get some sleep so we’d be ready for the rest of our troupe to arrive on Thursday!

A group of us sat in the lobby and waited and watched to see who might come through the doors. We didn’t wait too long before we were rewarded with Chris and Taylor’s bus driver. Now when there are a group of women who are used to waiting a scoping out the area looking for the prize, you’d think we’d have gotten quite good at finding out juicy stories and such. No amount of coaxing or bribing was going to get any kind of good story out of either man, so we just sat around and chatted about nothing and everything! Don’t worry Taylor and company, your secrets are still safe! No one spilled the beans! Give these guys gold stars for keeping quiet (much to our dismay!)!

The bad thing about being out of town is the late nights and early mornings! I needed to work for a bit Thursday morning, so I stayed in the room for a while. Before long, I was getting hungry, so I showered and dressed. By the time I was ready to leave, the rest of our troupe had arrived. We made our way to the casino to eat and try the machines again. Maybe with a few new faces, the machines would more readily give up their treasures! Forget it! That wasn’t going to happen! And for some of us, it was a time to finally meet face-to-face with the owners of the voices and personal messages we’d shared for the past few months!

Seating again tonight would be first grab, first get. Since I was a little bit later getting there, all the good seats were taken. I did manage to find a seat where I would be able to see provided the VIP section remained seated. Now last night, that section did sit, but who knew what to expect tonight! We were about to get the show of our lifetime! And from an entertainer who was so sick he should have been in bed!

Now I’ve mentioned that last night the Taylor had to fight with the lights. Tonight it was obvious that he had won the battle over where to put those bright lights! And not in his face! The lighting was much better for him and that allowed him to move about a bit more! But with less lighting, Taylor tripped as he come on the stage, but caught himself! I thought he was excited to be performing the way he came out until someone said he stumbled over the stage equipment!

Show time! Taylor Hicks took the stage and opened with “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” which was really appropriate under the circumstances. We were hearing rumors that Taylor was sick and when he finished the opening number, he announced that he was indeed sick with strep and bronchitis. He told us that he’d been informed that if he wanted to be in the music business, he had to be prepared to be in the germ business. Taylor told us that since he loved the music business, then he was going to love the germ business!

And that would be the last reference to being to sick because the rest of the show showed anything but a sick man! The energy was high, the audience was rocking and the band was smoking! This was going to be one fabulous show! The next song was “Just to Feel That Way”! Taylor was feeling the music and so were we!

It was nice to hear Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks” again. I love Taylor’s version, and often think he should include it on his next album! “Don’t Let Me Down” found its way into the set list, and Taylor did anything but let us down! The energy for phenomenal and Taylor was on the first day of being really sick! His gray shirt was getting soaked as he danced around the stage while he sang.

Somewhere in the process of singing and dancing, Taylor bumped into the speaker his harmonicas sat on and they flew around the stage. Someone came out and straightened them up for him, and Taylor made have even picked up a few himself! At this point, I’m having a hard time remembering, so thank goodness I wrote down a few thoughts after the show!

Taylor Hicks performed his own original “Somehow” with a few new twists! What I heard was incredible! I could only shake my head and repeatedly say, “WOW!”. I could only hope to hear that version again soon!

The real fun of Taylor’s performance was just about ready to happen! We got a couple more songs and as “Gonna Move” was ending, Taylor was ready to launch into “Heaven Knows”. He skipped the first verse and when he realized it, Taylor couldn’t help but laugh at himself! And ad lib a few word about this being embarrassing! Then Boogie continued the opening riffs and Taylor got tickled again – he had to leave the stage to compose himself! When Taylor returned to the stage, the song was completed without further errors, at least none that I noticed! “Such a lovable dork” as I have often seen used in describing Taylor! When the song ended, Taylor made like he was fishing and had caught us in his hook and continued to reel us in! Hook, line and sinker!

Taylor told us his mother hated it when he left “snot cloths” laying the house, but since this stage was his house, he could do as he pleased. With that, he blew his nose into a gray towel right in front of the mike, and it was definitely a loud hhhaaaawwwkkk! And the towel was thrown behind him rather than into the audience! At least the boy has some manners!

The final songs of the show were “The Right Place” and “The Runaround”. Taylor’s energy was not waning…it was increasing as the audience cheered and clapped. The front section has a number of special guests, including a gentleman that several of us thought was either Keb’ Mo’ or Samuel L. Jackson. Alas, it was a relative of Felix – we would find that out later the next day when we were checking out of the hotel and quizzing Felix about the gentleman. He was definitely enjoying the show, and the VIP section was having a lot of fun with him!

When the set ended Taylor waved good-bye and left the stage. The band finished the song and then left. But no one was gone for too long! Encore! With shouts of “Taylor, Taylor, Taylor”, the band followed by Taylor came back to the stage to perform Eric Clapton’s, “Badge”. After the song ended, Taylor again left the stage and the show was over.

We cleared out of the theater and found our way back to the appropriate machines to lose more money. After a bit, several of us decided we were hungry, and given the late hour, decided Waffle House was the place to go. After all it was just across the bridge from the hotel so it would be easy to find. At least we didn’t get lost going there. But the grill was black and they had to clean it, so the grill was going to be closed for 40 minutes and no one was going to be served for at least another hour! Since we didn’t get lost going there, the grill closure was just a minor set back. We were given directions to the next closest Waffle House.

Off to the car we toddled and piled back in. As we approached our turn, was it right and then left or left and then right? Well this time we did make a wrong turn, turned around and started again! This was much better, and we soon found the right place. But this Waffle House had a teensy weensy problem – they were running out of food! Thank goodness we got there when we did, or we would have gone to be without supper! We ordered what we wanted and waited for our meals to arrive.

After a bit the food was put in front of us. Most of us just inhaled it because we were so hungry. By the time we finished eating, we were all getting quite tired. We paid the bill and back to the car we went. So back to the hotel we went. It didn’t take much coaxing to get us into bed because we were all exhausted. Morning would come too soon and the drive to Biloxi still had to be made. After two victorious days in Vicksburg, we were ready to see the ocean in Biloxi and pick up the last of our troupe.

So I’ll see you in a day or so while I compose my thoughts about our Biloxi escapade, or when the traveling circus boogies to Biloxi!

Sorry, security was tight, so there are no pictures from Vicksburg except the ones in my memory!

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