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

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Traveling Circus Earns Its Degree in Newport News

“I love being in Virginia” as Taylor would say. It’s not that far from where I grew up and spent a good part of my life. A very early morning flight was required to ensure getting to the concert on time. Very early morning flight! Should be illegal to require passengers to fly at that hour – 6:00 am, no less – and that was the flight time without the travel time and security check in time figured in! In the end, it was worth it!

Before the concert I decided to take a short drive to Williamsburg and Jamestown. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see much of the Colonial area because it was all walking and I wanted to save my energy for the Taylor Hicks concert. I drove back to greet some old faces and meet some new faces at The Sandbar. It was nice to have the chance to talk to fans I often see at other venues but never get the chance to really talk to! And what gorgeous children some of them have! All too soon it was time to head off to our designated place.

The Ferguson Center for the Arts at Christopher Newport University was very nice! The exterior design was like walking through a series of door openings. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture, but the night lighting was beautiful. It seemed to have several theatres within the single structure because there were people at both ends of the building attending different shows!

As we entered the doors, we were immediately told that there would be no pictures allowed, per Taylor Hicks’ rider. According to the Ferguson Center’s website, photography was at the discretion of the performer. And since we all know that Taylor doesn’t object to pictures, it seemed more likely it was the house rule than anything else. Even the elevator volunteer said they don’t normally allow photography and seemed surprised that we were able to take pictures at other venues. So I’m afraid there are no pictures, and tonight there were a lot of great pictures opportunities that will forever be ingrained in my memory!

This would be a night with just Taylor Hicks backed by the summer touring band minus Felix. I was surprised to see the older gentlemen take Felix’s place, and I must say he was not quite as good as Felix, especially when it came to performing “The Runaround”. Making those drums sound like a marching band is something Felix had mastered but was lost tonight. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself!

The opening montage started and as it was ending, out came Taylor Hicks in a beautiful blue shirt, a color I would say was more of a peacock blue, jeans, and New Balance shoes, singing “How’s everybody doing this evening” to the tune of “Gonna Move”. With cheers from the crowd, Taylor went right into “Gonna Move”. This was the “new” version, whatever that’s supposed to mean, but you could hear a few different inflections in the melody and how Taylor was Taylorizing it. Now usually when this has been the opening number Taylor comes out with his guitar strapped on, but not tonight. We would later learn that with all the traveling he had to do Saturday, he didn’t have time to pick up his guitar. Hum, did that mean no tambourine, cowbell or harmonica as well?

With shout outs to the Soul Patrol and comments about a being a beautiful theatre, Taylor announced the next song was “Give Me….Tonight”. Kind of like he was trying to remember the name of the song but then quipped he hadn’t forgotten the song because he had performed it just this morning! (The morning performance had been the half-time entertainment at the Auburn-Mississippi State game earlier in the day.) The first part of the song had a different beat, something you had to hear to understand this comment.

Since he had had a few days off, Taylor was glad to be back in Virginia. Someone shouted out to ask if Auburn won, and Taylor, ever the diplomat, said “Virginia is great”. After talking a bit about being back home and performing at the Auburn game earlier in the day, Taylor Hicks started singing his own original music, “Heart and Soul” mixed with “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”. Taylor took the opportunity to say Loren had also had a few days off and was feeling good! Time for a bit of the old ball game and heading for home, Taylor tagged that it wasn’t the Auburn Tigers who won the game! What a hoot! And as Taylor took the bases he went behind the drum stand and up beside Brian as he played the sax.

At some point during the first few songs, Taylor quipped about having on the same shirt, underwear, etc from the morning performance. While the audience laughed, he said, that no, had indeed changed since then. I couldn’t tell for sure, but the shirt sure looked like the one I had seen in a picture from the football game, although Taylor was wearing a light covered blazer over it. Who cares, anyway! We weren’t there for a fashion show or to check for sweat stains – we were there to hear this talented man sing and watch him dance across the stage as he entertained us!

Taylor continued to comment on the intimacy of the theatre, and he felt like he should be taking questions but that there wasn’t enough time to do that. So instead, he sang the first single from his CD, “Just to Feel That Way”. When he finished the song, he made a few remarks about Clive Davis wanting him to do this song, along with a few others and commenting that he, Taylor, did have some control with the CD.

Next was a song Taylor had no control over because it was a Traffic song called “Medicated Goo”. This is a song that usually gets the audience up and moving, and from time to time there were a few people standing up and dancing. For the most part, the section I was in was sitting. But I was dancing on the edge of my seat. What else could I do since I wasn’t able to take any pictures!

Sitting in front of me and to my right were a few people that hadn’t seen Taylor Hicks since his American Idol days. It was interesting watching their reaction to the Taylor Hicks they were seeing right now! Each would later say how much they enjoyed the Taylor Hicks that had just performed! And the lady to my right ending up dancing along with her husband during the encore!

A song that Taylor said he could identify most with from his CD, “Wherever I Lay My Hat” was next, including a melody change and few guitar chords that really stood out. At one point I thought I was hearing violins, but that must have been Loren on the keyboard doing it. With a ‘shhhh’ to the band and a few spoken words that I couldn’t understand, came the tag that just melts the heart, “Thank you for letting me be myself”. That’s when I know Taylor is right where he wants to be. Throw in some “Nightshift” and you have heard quite a song and some high pitch ‘hoooo’s’ from Taylor!

Back to talking about music being in his blood and not able to give up the hat, Taylor wanted to know who had any crazy friends. We couldn’t help but point at the people sitting beside us, especially when we knew they were Soul Patrollers who’d been to several concerts. “My Friend” was written for one of Taylor’s crazy friends, and really is a fun song to listen to. Sort of cajun, blues and honky tonk with lots of saxophone and harmonica! You can’t help but ‘share that smile’ as the song says!

An “I love you too” preceded “The Deal”. The beautiful part of the song tonight was that Taylor threw in lots of harmonica. I don’t ever recall that before, maybe because I was watching through a camera lens or he didn’t do it. It was, however, a beautiful addition to the song, and made it that much more moving.

Now “Soul Thing” was a lot of fun! The usual song plus “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” thrown in for good measure. And then there was the ‘chickin’ pickin’ guitar of Josh Smith, all the while with Taylor Hicks strutting like a chicken. Maybe more like the rooster in a house full of hens! Taylor had the audience laughing with those chicken moves of his! And all the different faces he was making as Josh continued to pick those chickens clean! So many cute expressions, so many lost photo opportunities! Even I had to smile! Before the song ended, we were “Eastbound and Down” and ready to start grooving!

Snapping to the beat, and encouraging the audience to join in the lost art, Taylor Hicks introduced “Heaven Knows” from the album. I think I snapped until my fingers were tired and sore. While the song asks the person to whom it’s directed ‘to cut me some slack’, Taylor was cutting us no slack! During the musical interlude of the song Taylor was doing his booty dance. He’d stick his butt out and shake it, stop and look over his shoulder at the audience, then do it again, stop and look, and then shake it again! The audience was screaming for more and really enjoying his little dance. Such an instigator Taylor can be!

There were lots of shout of ‘we love you, Taylor’ and a moment of silence from Taylor before starting “The Maze”. You could hear other voices join in the harmony of the song and lots of Loren on the keys. A ‘let’s keep it there’ and call out to Josh to pick his guitar, gave Taylor a moment to rest his voice and savor the music that was being made at the moment. Tags included in the song were “Soldier of Fortune”, “Hymns to the Silence” and “Arthur’s Theme” of getting caught between the moon and New York City with a sax solo by Brian. By the end of the song, we may not have been in a maze, but we sure were amazed by Taylor’s performance!

As I said earlier, the only obvious difference between the drummer tonight and Felix was the ability to make the drums sound like a drum corps in “The Runaround”. I noticed that Loren gave the drummer a signal to step it up and then he seemed to pull out all of the drum stops! Taylor’s voice had some softer yet higher pitch in parts of the song, perhaps something from the arrangement for the Auburn half-time. Taylor seemed to be singing the song smoother than usual, almost like the Holiday performances in December when the album was first released.

By the end of the song, we had earned our degree, yes sir, we had earned our degree! And so had Taylor! A good portion of the audience in the front rows were up dancing! As if more was needed, Taylor began to do a harmonica duel with Josh’s guitar! There was not way to declare a winner of this duel! More shout outs to being in Virginia and harmonica took the song to “Willie Brown Blues” and back to “The Runaround”.

Taylor thanked the audience for coming and having him in Virginia. A few shouts of “Soul Patrol” and Loren’s shouting out “Taylor Hicks” and the concert was over. At least the main set. As we’ve come to expect, there would be an encore!

With the lights out, Bill brought out the stool of soul (or sensitivity, if you prefer). Since Taylor was traveling and didn’t have time to grab his guitar, he borrowed Josh’s black and white and started to pluck a few notes. He said he wrote the song as a kid, and someone shouted out that he still was! And then Taylor responded that we should all still be kids! With that, strumming a borrowed guitar, Taylor Hicks sang his own, “The Fall”. There were again some new inflections in the melody that made it that much more captivating and kept the audience silent during the entire song. Even thinking about it now brings chills and warm smiles! Before the song was over, “Games That People Play” was tagged and then back to the magic of the soulful “The Fall”.

The rest of the band took their places and the final song of the night, “Long Train Running” with lots of “without love, where would you be now”, was performed. Also lots of harp with this number. It was obvious that Taylor Hicks had enjoyed being where he was and giving this performance. Maybe it was having had a week off or perhaps the theatre itself, either way it was an incredible show. It reminded me a lot of Clearwater a few weeks ago but with its own personality. During the final song each musician was given a short solo and shout out from Taylor.

With shouts of ‘thanks for having me’, Taylor waved us good night and exited the stage. The band finished up and the house light came on. As we left the theatre, we greeted old friends and acquaintances and talked about how great the concert was. One by one we made out way outside the auditorium and into the lobby, still chatting away. I stopped back by the merchandise table to say good night, and then I, too, left the venue.

I hummed to myself all the way back to my hotel. I found a parking spot and went up to my room. It was still a bit early so I went back down and across the parking lot to the steak house next door. After eating, I tried to write a bit and see what, if anything, had been posted from the concert. I needed to be up by 3:30 am since I had a 5:30 am flight. I could only nap, because by the time I laid down it was after midnight! Once home, I could catch up on my sleep. As Taylor said after winning American Idol, “when you’re having fun, sleep can wait!” Tonight was no exception!

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