The adventure really begins with a phone call from a Boogier with the offer of a condo on the beach. I already had a room at a local Orange Beach hotel but the offer of a condo for the cost of the cleaning fee shared with a group of other Boogiers was just too good to pass up! I called my Orange Beach roomie, asked if she was interested, and called back the hostess and said yes, we’d take it.
Saturday morning came bright and early, and with a flight to catch equally as early, I had to get ready so I could finish packing. Off to the airport I went, bags in tow. When I arrived at the airport, I headed straight for the lower level long-term parking, and found no spaces empty except for where the was some work going on. Out I went rather than wasting time driving around the full lot!
As I was driving to the airport, it crossed my mind that I should just park at the near-by Park It Here, but I passed it by for airport parking. Since there was none to be found where I wanted to park, I headed back that way. I found a space, parked, grabbed my bag and took the shuttle for front door delivery!
Once in Pensacola, I picked up my rental car, set Madge for Perdido Key Drive and headed out for some fun in the sun! Remember the offer of the condo? I was excited driving to my destination, hoping that there would be a balcony with a view of the ocean. I’d traveled with a number of people before, having 6-10 ladies in a room or condo, so the thought of 10 ladies in a beach condo didn’t really phase me. After all, it was place to crash, have some fun, get some sun and save some money!
I had been told up front that there were four bedrooms. OK, I know how big my house is, and I have four bedrooms, one of which is so small, a futon is all that would fit in there and maybe a table if I moved out my desk. With no plans to cook, I figured who’d care about the size – after all, this trip was to see Taylor Hicks live at the Wharf Amphitheatre anyway. So what if we were tripping each other as we moved about our humble abode!
And the coup de gras was the fact we’d be right next door to the famous Flora-Bama where Taylor Hicks practically cut his musical teeth. What could be better! I was just hoping for a view of the ocean anyway.
As I got nearer my destination, I was in almost constant contact with our gracious hostess. She was only a few yards in front of me, at the rental office, picking up our keys to the condo. I followed her the rest of the way, looking at all the new tall luxury condos and wondering what our place was going to be like.
We pulled into the parking lot and found places to park. I unloaded my car and followed her to the door. In the first door and then the second door, and there waiting for us was an elevator which we quickly boarded. I was given a quick lesson in how to operate the elevator to get to our floor. Special attention was required – point the fob and then push the button for our week-end get-away unit. Unit!
As the elevator door opened I could see the doors in front. Without any lights on outside the door, my first thought was ‘oh, no, this place is still under construction. Our hostess opened the door to the condo and flipped on a few lights. I had just walked into paradise! The condo was huge, and I mean huge! Thirty eight hundred square feet of luxury with all the creature comforts anyone could want, beautifully decorated, and fully loaded!
Being first to arrive had its advantages. My roommate and I would get the master suite, complete with Jacuzzi tub and separate rain shower with separate steam controls. And the view of the beach could be enjoyed from any where in the condo – the balcony completely surrounded the unit! Right there below us, to the right, was the famous Flora-Bama. Did I say, we were being treated to a taste of heaven!
Our hostess gave me the lay of the land, telling me where to find the nearest grocery store, how to get to The Wharf, and local trivia. I wasn’t going anywhere! Alright, maybe to dinner later, but for the rest of the afternoon, I wanted to read and nap and soak in my surroundings. Pure bliss! Only the rich get to live this way, and for a week-end, I was going to enjoy their everyday life-style.
Finally another guest arrived, and we decided to go grab some seafood at the nearby Crab Trap (which is on the Florida side of the state line splitting the Flora-Bama). Good choice! By the time we got back to the condo, my roommate arrived, and after some more get-acquainted conversation, back to the same restaurant we went for her to have dinner while we had dessert or appetizers.
By the time we got back to the condo, the music at the Flora-Bama was loud enough for us to enjoy from our balcony. We imagined what it must have been like for Taylor Hicks to have played there. The hot tub was soon discovered, and the decision made to try it out. Me, I wanted to relax in the luxury of the oversized sofas and read until I fell asleep!
The Flora-Bama closed down and it got quiet. The condo pool kept calling the other house guests, and my book was beckoning that I read some more. Finally around 3:30 am, everyone was ready to get some serious sleep. My roomie and I laid awake for a bit longer just marveling at our surroundings and the generosity of our hostess. Sleep soon took over, and the sun rose up over the ocean.
Now across from the condo was a Waffle House, so we quickly dressed and dashed across the street for eggs and coffee. The place was packed so while we waited for our table, we played musical chairs with other guests waiting in line. I was wearing a Taylor Hicks spring tour tee shirt and the woman in front of us began to tell us about meeting Taylor before he went on American Idol.
Now when she found out Taylor was a contestant on American Idol Season Five, she watched faithfully and voted frequently. But she wasn’t going to see the show at the Wharf. Her claim to Taylor Hicks fame was that on a flight to Los Angeles when Taylor was trying to promote his “Under the Radar” CD, the particular Southwest flight needed a smaller woman to sit in the section where Taylor and his friend or manager were sitting. She volunteered for the job. During the flight, the friend let her listen to some of Taylor’s music on his laptop, and she could hear the similarities between Taylor Hicks and Michael McDonald. And she wasn’t going to the Wharf – what a shame!
After breakfast, I made a quick run to see what the Wharf looked like and to see if any better seats might be available. The Wharf is quite a resort, complete with movie theatre, amphitheatre, shops and restaurants. The buses were already parked at the back entrance, and I headed back to the condo to report in. Finally it was time to get ready to head to dinner before the show. Another great seafood restaurant was the place to be tonight!
With premier parking, we found the parking lot and took a space. Taylor and company were in the middle of doing their sound check so we could hear what was going on. It was going to be great by the sounds of what we heard! We walked on down to the restaurant, meeting more Boogiers and their husbands who would be joining us for dinner. By the time we finished our meals, it was time to head to the amphitheatre to find our seats.
As I went looking for my seat, I got a rather pleasant surprise – my row J tickets were one row closer than I thought since there was no row I! Whee! And I was only a few seats in from the aisle! Bring out the big boy camera – mama’s gonna get some good pictures tonight!
A local band, Loose Cannon, was first up. A couple of guys with acoustic guitars, loud speakers, and not too bad of a sound opened. Only problem was they blew the fuses a couple of times and I thought the stage was being blown up! What a loud pops those were!
Time for the band to take the stage as “Soul Finger” played. Brian Less was back for the night on the organ, and it was so nice to see and hear him again! With the announcement of his name, Taylor Hicks joined them and opened the set with “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”. Throw in some “Hey Pocky Way” and you have a great opening number! The crowd was standing up just begging for more!
Speaking of the crowd. It was a mixed group of all ages and plenty of men and dating fellows. Some empty seats in the bleacher section, but the main seats appeared to be pretty much taken. It was hard to tell because so many people came late and sat down while Taylor was singing the opening number.
From his debut major album, “Taylor Hicks”, next was “Give Me Tonight”. For Orange Beach, this was like coming home for Taylor. Grandma Joni was there and was acknowledged by the mayor of Orange Beach just before Taylor’s band took the stage. The mayor also acknowledged Taylor as the city’s native son! Taylor didn’t need to ask us to give him tonight in Orange Beach, but he sure gave it to us!
Taylor Hicks’ originals are always crowd pleasers, and “Heart and Soul” was just the thing to please them tonight. As the song would indicate, Taylor sang his heart out and gave us the very essence of his soul. Salt this tune with the fun of “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” and everyone was ready to scream for more! More! Soul Patrol in Orange Beach!
By the time Taylor was singing “Medicated Goo”, I knew that if I needed any kind of healing, I had just received it in music form. No laying on of hands was necessary. Between taking pictures and watching Taylor dance across the stage I was so excited just to be there! Who cared if I was sitting by myself! Tonight, everyone around me was so captivated by Taylor’s performance that being a party of one or a party of ten, it just didn’t matter!
From Taylor Hicks’ independently produced “Under the Radar” was “Hell of a Day”. I would later post on a fan board that love was made for a Hell of a Day, but what I was seeing made for one hell of a night! And the concert at the Wharf was just the beginning, the cake so to speak. More later about the icing on the cake! I love “Another Brick in the Wall”, and it was great to hear it incorporated into “Hell of a Day”.
A couple of more covers, “Lowdown” by Boz Skaggs and “Call Me the Breeze” by Lynrd Skynrd were next followed by more Taylor Hicks’ original music, “The Deal”. If Taylor had made a deal with the devil, I was going to be joining him you know where! Taylor’s was hot and on fire tonight, and we were burning right along with him.
From the “Taylor Hicks” CD, Paul Pena’s, “Gonna Move”, was next. I don’t know if Taylor planned to ‘take us to church’ or not, but “Gonna Move” is definitely the type of song to do it with! It’s enough just to take us to the next life! I believe a little “Feel the Revolution” made into the song. The only uprising at The Wharf was the standing up and dancing at your seats! And with my personal ‘cannon’ in hand, I was ready to aim and shoot (pictures, that is!)
Somewhere in all the singing and dancing and guitar picking and tambourine shaking, Taylor had to change shirts. The gray button down he started out with was soaked to the point that sweat just waved off his back! Well, we were at the beach, and the sweat on the shirt only lacked the white caps of the ocean waves! Taylor left the stage while the band continued to play, and was gone for a minute or two. I kept looking off to the left side of the stage but couldn’t see anything. Finally Taylor returned with a black tee shirt on which must have been a lot cooler!
“Heaven Knows” and “The Maze” were great! But when Taylor Hicks added “My Home’s in Alabama” to the “The Maze”, I was ready to fall down on my knees and cry (ok, not really fall down, but it was enough to make me want to cry!). Sprinkle in “Do You Believe in Magic” and I was well done. Forget the summer heat and ocean breezes – I was ready to just get soaked by the next wave! I was witness to the best performance I’d seen since Taylor Hicks started his solo tour in February. I’ve seen a lot of shows, and right here in Orange Beach, the second Birmingham concert was now taking second place! Oh Taylor, what were you doing to us!
Now we’ve all probably seen video of Taylor Hicks doing his dirty dog wiggle, and tonight it was just the best I’d ever seen. Lots of it – both at Al, Felix and the audience! Lots of wiggling and booty shaking for us. If Taylor had sung “Whole Lot of Shaking Going On”, I don’t think he could have shaken his butt any harder or any more that he did during that performance!
Taylor slowed it down a bit to sing “The Right Place”. Whether he said it or not, Orange Beach was definitely the right place tonight. I’ve said that before about other performances, but tonight, that phrase took on a whole new meaning. And the night was only beginning, but we just didn’t know it at the time!
The first set ended with “The Runaround” and some “Big Boss Man”. When it ended, Taylor left the stage, and later followed by the band. While we waited for the encore, the audience started calling “Taylor, Taylor, Taylor” to let him know we weren’t ready to go home and that we wanted more. We were not going to be disappointed! Plus, Taylor needed time to change tee shirts again, and this time into one that read “ELV1S” (with the number 1 for the “i”) on the front and “Before Elvis there was nothing” on the back.
Out came the stool and two microphones. This bearded dude took the stool with his guitar on his knee and Taylor Hicks stood beside him, and introduced him as Jon Cook. For Soul Patrollers in the know, Jon had played with Taylor off and on during his pre-American Idol years. An old protest song, “Abraham, Martin & John”, was about to be played acoustically with Taylor on the harmonica. I could only shake my head in disbelief as they did this number. I’d heard an old recording of Taylor doing this song, but never did I expect to hear it live. And here I was, Orange Beach, hearing one of the best songs every done by Taylor as an encore!
The encore ended with “Take the Long Way Home” and “Soul Thing”. Either song would have made a fitting encore. The train-like wail of Taylor Hicks on the harmonica as he walks off the stage or the song he calls his personal anthem sum up the essence of any of his performances. But tonight, we got them both. I’m in awe of the song selection for tonight, and only as I write my recap do I fully understand the musical genius that Taylor possesses.
Before he leaves the stage for the last time, Taylor asks if we know what “chicken picking” is, and with that Josh is turned loose on his guitar to give us a sample of what the expression means. According to Taylor, only Alabamans know what it means! And with that, Taylor left us to only marvel at the show we had just witnessed!
We gathered our troupe to head back to our little piece of heaven on the beach. With the Flora-Bama next door, it was best to leave the cars in the condo parking lot and walk over for night caps and listen to whatever band was going to close the joint for the night. From the outside, the structure is very rustic, and looks like it might fall down in a full gale force hurricane (which it did several years ago when Ivan struck the Gulf coast).
After resting for a bit and transferring my concert pictures to my laptop, I looked out the window to see that Taylor’s personal tour bus was parked in the Flora-Bama parking lot. It was time that I walked over to join the rest of my group at the Flora-Bama. A quick hug from the guys from LiMBO and I was ready to find a bar stool so I could just sit and listen. Sadly, I was informed that Taylor Hicks had already been and gone, playing a couple of tunes with some old friends. Drats, I had missed the opportunity to see Taylor in an old haunt, probably raw and pure understated bliss!
So I found my stool and sat down to people watch. The band inside started to crank up, and I could hear “Gonna Move” being sung. The singer sounded so much like Taylor Hicks that I wondered aloud if it was! A lady that I was talking to walked over to the plastic draped door and peeked inside, turned back all wide-eyed, and motioned for me to come inside! Oh my word! There was Taylor Hicks on stage, black STAX tee shirt and black Gibson guitar cap. I wormed my way over to an empty spot on the rail over looking the main floor. Camera ready to take pictures, I pulled up a bar stool and figured out how to get up on it. The man on the next stool tried to talk to me, but I could only grunt what few answers I could give. The guy wanted to make sure I knew it was Taylor Hicks on the stage, and I couldn’t help but retort I had just come from seeing him at the Wharf!
“When the Saints Go Marching’ In” showed Taylor’s versatility when he sang it with two different beats, including a barroom sing-along and a bit of rap. What was I thinking! If ever I should be video taping, this was the time, and here I sat just absorbing the scene and trying to get a few pictures. It finally dawned on me that I needed to be recording what I was seeing so I stopped taking pictures and started video taping. Somewhere on this page you will find that exclusive footage of “Call Me the Breeze” with Taylor Hicks and the lady who gave him his Flora-Bama break!
There was another song or two and then the clock struck 2:00 am, or what I understood was closing time. The crowd started dispersing and I decided I needed to head back to the condo to get ready to for my 4:00 am drive to Pensacola to catch my flight home. As I sat down on the leather sofa, I could hear the band start back up. What!?!
I opened the balcony door to get a better listen, and realized Taylor Hicks was back on the stage! I decided to forego walking back to the Flora-Bama and just down and listened to beautiful voice. What a visual show I was missing, but the night ocean air was full of Taylor Hicks’ voice and harmonica. I listened as he performed with several members of Spoonful James and LiMBO some “Badge” and “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley”. I just listened and didn’t really try to concentrate on what Taylor was singing so much as just that he was singing. I was trying to imagine what it must have been like before American Idol when Taylor was sing here.
A few more songs were performed, the house lights flickered, some screaming fans, another song or two, and then the piped in music and it was over. The Soul Patrol had seen and heard Taylor Hicks in a 2-for-1 night, first at the Wharf Amphitheatre and then at the famous Flora-Bama (aptly named because it straddled the Florida and Alabama state lines!). Definitely a night for record books. Definitely a night that will be forever ingrained in my memory. Definitely a night, oh what a night…..our cake had just been iced and decorated!
Yes, as Taylor Hicks has written, ‘love was made for a Hell of a Day’, but the 2-for-1 Taylor Hicks performances in Orange Beach made for one hell of a night! Special thanks to our gracious and generous hostess, the owner of that little piece of heaven on the beach, for making this one heck of a wonderful trip! You know who you are! And also to the special ladies sharing that little piece of heaven with me! What a week-end we had! Yes, definitely, what a night…..
Pictures from the Wharf Amphitheatre, Orange Beach, AL