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

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Traveling Circus Climbs Penn's Peak

After Taylor’s show at the Beacon, we were ready to leave New York City and head to Jim Thorpe, PA for the Saturday night concert. Thank goodness we had a hardy breakfast first. Lunch was going to have to wait. We checked out of the hotel, boarded the SuperShuttle for Newark airport, and off we went. Our planned party of three was now a party of five. We arrived at Newark, went to the car rental office and picked up our car for the drive to Pennsylvania.

By now, I should have learned how to follow simple Yahoo! maps directions. One wrong turn or missed exit, and who knows where we’d end up! Fortunately, our navigator was familiar with the area, so we opted for the more scenic route. Probably more because we missed our exit – all the chatter and cackling going on, I’m sure!

The route we took really was a beautiful drive. Our intentions had been to take the parkway but I guess we missed our exit. We saw lots of rolling hills, farms, horses, cows, barns, houses, and rapid flowing streams. At times the view was breath-taking. Especially when we got between Lehighton and Jim Thorpe – that deep gorge off the side of the road and the raging stream between the mountains!

Our detour added another hour or so to our drive. But it gave us time to chat, relax and have a good time. Well, we did have to stop at a Pennsylvania Highway Patrol station to get directions to Lehighton. And take a potty break! Five women in one car – you can imagine how long that took! Actually we were back on the road after about 15 minutes!

We made our way to the hotel in Lehighton after talking to the hotel manager to find out how to get there. Another wrong turn – I should have crossed the bridge! But we would have missed some gorgeous views if I’d gone right the first time! Finally, we were at our destination, got checked in, decided who would have which room and unloaded the car. We had dinner reservations at Roadies so we needed to freshen up and get on the road.

Now I’d been up some mountains, but I wasn’t prepared to get out and push the car up the mountain! I could only get the car to go 20 miles per hour up the steep mountain. Talk about a climb! Soon we reached the top – Penn’s Peak! Perched atop the mountain was our venue! You could see for miles around! The view – ah the view! So beautiful! You could even see a lake far off in the distance! Had the trees been in full bloom, or the fall colors showing, it would have been absolutely breath-taking, even more beautiful!

The parking lot was below the restaurant and concert hall. We had to climb a long flight of stairs, and then more stairs to get to the restaurant. So we really did have to climb Penn’s Peak!

While we waited for our dinner (I decided to try the ribs!), we could hear a band playing below. It was only 7:00 so we figured it was Taylor Hicks doing a sound check. Wrong! It was the Greyhounds – the opening band came on at 7:00; the main act comes on at the time stated on the ticket! In this case, Taylor would take the stage at 8:00!

At 7:40 our dinner was placed in front of us! Have you ever tried to eat a rack of ribs in under 15 minutes (we needed to potty before the show!)? I hadn’t before now, but somehow I managed to pick those bones pretty clean! All of them! And had some of my sweet potato fries and slaw! We asked for our checks before we even started eating. We didn’t want to miss a second of Taylor Hicks, live in concert!

We made it to our seats with a couple of minutes to spare! The room darkened and the band came out. Brian Less introduced ‘Tay--lor Hicks!’ The crowd was cheering and clapping! Taylor came out waving and doing his greeting and then broke into “Gonna Move”. “Give Me Tonight” and “Wherever I Lay My Hat” were nice follow-ups from Taylor’s self-titled CD, “Taylor Hicks”.

If I had been sleeping, I’d have to “Dream Myself Awake”. This is one of my favorite songs from the CD. Taylor performing live is a plus! By the end of the night, we heard most of his CD live. Still no “Places I’ve Been”. I can’t wait to hear that one live! I’m holding out for the last show of the tour, perhaps in Seattle next month.

More original music of Taylor’s with “The Deal” and “Hell of a Day”. “My Friend”, also an original, is particularly meaningful to me. Taylor has a way of making it sound like he’s singing this just for you! I know better, but who cares!

Lots of tagging and a couple of covers round out the show. Rod Stewart’s, “Young Turks” is one of my favorites that Taylor has performed on the tour. It was nice to hear it again. Some “Medicated Goo” to get us up and moving. OK, so I sat! But I was moving in my head and heart! Seat too!

The show ended with “The Runaround”. Typical ending with Taylor waving and bowing and saluting the band. Then a dark stage. Taylor comes back out to do “Badge” before the show is over.

For me, one of the cutest moments of the entire concert was while Taylor was singing “The Right Place”. Tonight it definitely was! According to inside information, whenever one of the band members catches Taylor in a mistake, the first to announce it gets 25 points. Collect 300 points, and you earn an airplane ticket to your choice of destinations within the continental US. Well, tonight, Taylor got the points himself!

As he sang, we heard “I came from the right place” rather than “you’ve come to the right place”! Taylor turned around quickly and looked at Melanie (the back up singer) and Brian (the sax player) as if to say “I caught myself! I get the points!” It was so cute! And with such lightning speed! I think everyone laughed!

When the show was over, we went by the merchandise table to see what was there. Like I didn’t already have at least one of everything! We talked with the merchandise manager for a bit, wished him well, and decided to go out by the buses. There were several pockets of fans outside waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Finally Taylor came out, signed a few autographs and moved on to another spot. I made it around the trailer in time to see him go back inside. I had to wait for the tractor to back up under the trailer and hook it. Rats! Foiled by the loading of the equipment!

It was getting late and we needed to get up early the next morning to get back to Newark. Those of us flying were catching our return flights from there. Back down the mountain to the hotel. We spent some time looking at pictures and commenting on the concert. The ladies in my room talked until nearly 4:00 am! We had a lot of catching up to do!

The next morning we made our drive back to the airport and turned in the car. We followed the directions from Yahoo! maps to the letter and made it back in just a little less than two hours. Whee! No extra fees for the car! We said our good-byes and parted ways, waiting for the next time we could get together! Soon, baby, soon!

Jim Thorpe Pictures

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Traveling Circus Sees the Light at The Beacon

One of my favorite cities to visit is New York City! The hub bub and crowd of the big city. The traffic and horns beeping. Meeting friends! This was going to be a special trip because I was meeting friends I’d made since becoming a Taylor Hicks fan. My flight was leaving early Friday morning and I had arranged it so I would land at La Guardia around the same time as a friend from Miami. This way we could share a cab into the city.

As we pulled up in front of the Hotel Beacon, the rest of our party was waiting outside. Now how’s that for a welcoming! We hugged and danced around outside and then went inside to register. Well, at least, I was going to try to register! My original reservation was for Thursday night! I forgot to change it and my reservation was cancelled! And that late cancellation fee applied – except the manager took pity on me and didn’t charge me.

After a bit of negotiating, we finally had a room. More like a suite! And at the same price as a regular room! The six of us in our party were about to have a real pajama party! In New York City! Thanks, Mr. Manager! You made our night! And saved my VISA, too!

We settled into our room, decided who was sleeping where, and sat down to chat a bit. A surprise was in store for me! My Miami friend had made me a beautiful scrapbook featuring my blog! I was overwhelmed! And we even had Taylor sign it! What a treasure this will be!

Several in our group had already had lunch while several of us hadn’t. Off we tramped down the sidewalk looking for a place to grab a light lunch. We were planning a big dinner in just a couple of hours. Cosi, a health food type of deli, was chosen. In we went and ordered our sandwiches and drinks. Not bad if I do say so!

As we walked back to the hotel, the meet & greet crowd was gathering at The Beacon Theatre. We walked over to watch what was going on. Taylor was sitting at a table inside the lobby! We stood between the sets of doors and watched as the lucky fans were let inside. After it was over, we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and the concert.

We walked around the block looking for a place to dine. Between fish, nut and dairy allergies, we had to find a place everyone could eat. We settled on an Italian restaurant with outside seating. Other fans going to the show were there and joined us. Quite a merry little group!

We basically inhaled our dinner because it was nearly show time when our meals were served! Funds were collected and the bill was paid. Off we ran to nearest flower market to purchase a few bouquets for the man of the hour. A quick trip around the block and we made our entrance into The Beacon.

The Beacon was beautiful with its gold adornments! They are about to remodel the inside. We found our seats, front row! And about a foot from the stage! We were going to be rocking tonight!

Toby Lightman opened. She did her set. Toby is a very talented young lady! Kind of bluesy, kind of country.

Taylor Hicks was about the take the stage and Taylorize the audience! I had dialed in to do the cellcert for the Boogie Board. This was a first for me! Everything was ready. Just waiting for Taylor!

As he took the stage, Taylor Hicks came out waving and singing “Gonna Move”, one of the songs from his self-titled CD. Taylor quickly moved into “Heaven Knows” and “The Maze”. His dancing was non-stop! So full of energy! He moved close to the edge of the stage, teasing those on the front row! Hands were up hoping to be touched. Such a little tease Taylor can be!

With drum stick and cowbell in hand, Taylor beats rhythmically for “Compared to What”, a real audience pleaser! I want that drum stick! Next we get “Wherever I Lay My Hat”. I guess for Taylor, that’s the tour bus for now! We had looked for his bus outside the venue, but it was no where to be found. Hope he knows where it was parked!

We got “Give Me Tonight” and “The Deal”. But for me, the highlight was Taylor Hicks’ own original, “My Friend”, a song he wrote for a friend. It has a nice beat and funky sound. The crowd loved it! He even lunged at the crowd a time or two! What must he have been thinking!

More original music, “The Deal” and “Soul Thing”. Some “Medicated Goo” to soothe the need for a fast beat. Perhaps another lunge at the audience because of the “OMGs” that were heard. Off to “The Right Place” and then “The Runaround”. As Taylor left the stage, he walked from side to side, waving to the audience. No hand grabbing or shaking. I held out my bouquet of purple tulips, but they stayed behind.

The usual encore tease! Dark stage, band leaves and then returns. “Naked in the Jungle”! What an encore! Several tags are intertwined! A little bit of organ action with Brian Less. Taylor makes his way around the edge of the stage a time or two. And then leans downs and takes our bouquets! All three of them! Whee!

Taylor goes behind the curtains, lays down the flowers, and comes back out for a few more shouts of the tags! Some “Speak Out” and “Higher”! We were taken to church! We were totally Taylorized (as if we hadn’t already been!). And then the house lights were on. The show was over. Time to clean the stage and clear the seats.

As we left the theatre discussing the show in excited chatting, we walked to the nearest Starbucks. Hot chocolate, lattes, coffees, whatever our choice. We needed fortification for the night and ended up closing down the Starbucks! We stopped by the buses and Taylor walked out briefly to tell us good-bye and thank us for coming. Such a charmer!

Through the hotel lobby, up the elevator, down the hall, and to our room. Time to review the show, chat some more, and upload pictures. Whee! I took well over 300 shots tonight! Quite a lot of good ones, too! After a bit, we decided sleep was in order. Check out would come soon enough, and most of us were traveling the next day to Jim Thorpe, PA. And we wanted one last meal together before we left.

But as Taylor has been often quoted, “when you’re having fun, sleep can wait.” Too bad, it’s still waiting!

Pictures from The Beacon

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Traveling Circus Goes Broke at The Borgata

Saturday was another one of those early rising week-end mornings! As I jumped out of bed, I realized I don’t get up that fast on a work day! I quickly got ready and finished packing, said bye to the cats, and off I drove to the airport. My flight out was going to be delayed so I knew had time to get there without flying low or having my angels fly harder to keep up with me!

I decided that it would be best to fly into Philadelphia and rent a car to drive to Atlantic City. I was about to go an adventure in two cities I had never been before. As the plane was descending for the landing in Philly, I looked out the window to view the skyline. It was really quite amazing to me. I tried to picture what everything was and looked for some of the historic buildings. I don’t know if I saw any, but I definitely enjoyed the view!

Now I know I have established that I get lost easily. I can now add to that list that I can’t read the signs and get on the right bus! I went to Stop 2 as instructed but the parking lot bus stopped right in front of me and I got on. After 40 minutes of touring the parking lot, I was back at the terminal. The bus driver was quite helpful – he flagged down the car rental van for me. I was now off to rent my car!

I should have realized I was having “one of those days” kind of day. When I arrived to get my car, the reservation was for March 14, not April 14. What? Fortunately, they were able to accommodate me. With directions in hand, I was off to Atlantic City! After about an hour, I took the exit to the hotel where I was meeting other friends and staying overnight.

As I was driving down the road to the hotel, my friends were waiting on the corner at the hotel for me. Between them and me was a concrete barrier and no left turns! I saw them from the back and blew my horn. They were expecting me to come from the opposite direction! I drove down the road about a mile or so before I could find a place to turn left and turn around. We laughed about them standing on the corner watching and waving at me and how they must have looked to other passing cars!

For the show, we decided to take a cab to the Borgata. By the time we left, there were five of us in our little party. We climbed into the van and off we went. I don’t recall his name, but he was great – almost like one of the gang, you know what I mean! He was joking with us and we were all telling stories and stuff! When he dropped us at the Borgata, we made sure to get his card so we could call him to come pick us up after the show! We had our plan in motion for after the show. Little did we know we would all poop out afterwards!

The Borgata is a beautiful casino with ornate fixtures and columned arches! We walked back to The Music Box where the show was to be held. We stopped in front of the red lacquered doors and speckled floor to check out the location. Talk about glamour and glitz!

Since everyone was getting hungry, we decided to walk around to see what was available and decided to give Wolfgang Puck a try. Now if I had been gambling before dinner, I wouldn’t have been able to afford dinner! My salad was $13 and the calzone was $14! The iced tea had a nice peach flavor. The food was tasty and I know we had to pay for the name. I’d go again with friends if the opportunity arose in spite of the prices! I’d like another one of those salads, please!

We hurried back to the bright red doors just as Toby Lightman was signing her second or third song. We found our seats and sat down. I was on the right side of the stage on the third row and my pictures were going to be awesome. If you don’t believe me, just click on the link below to see them!

Not that Taylor needs much introduction, he doesn’t! But I do enjoy hearing Brian Less shout out “Mr. Taylor Hicks”! Taylor came out waving wearing a gray jacket and black shirt with his jeans and sneakers. His opening number was an original of his from his “Under the Radar” CD called “Soul Thing”. It’s always a nice rendition. He followed with “Give Me Tonight” and “Wherever I Lay My Hat”. I don’t recall if he chatted with the audience before or after “Hell of Day”, but it was cute!

He told us that “Borgata meant broke!” He’d been having some fun before the show, or maybe the night before since he was off Friday! Later he’d ask the audience if we were winning, and to be honest! Everyone laughed right along with him! Good thing we had already bought our tickets, because after a few rounds at the tables, wheels, and slots, we may not have been able to pay for them!

I believe Taylor had performed “My Friend”, a song he wrote for a friend, at another show, but this was the first time I’d heard him do it live. I really enjoy hearing Taylor perform his own original music. It’s very soothing to the ear. We got another Taylor original, “The Deal” and a romping cover, “Medicated Goo”. No show is complete without “Heaven Knows”, “The Right Place” or “The Runaround”.

As the stage cleared and lights stayed down, the stage hand brought out a stool and then took it back. I was hoping for “The Fall” which Taylor did once before as an acoustical encore. But not tonight. Instead the whole band came back and gave us “Take the Long Way Home”. Lots of good harmonica in that one! With final waves and bows, Taylor was gone and the show was over.

Since it was still a wee bit early, we decided to try our luck at the slot machines. They don’t call them “one-armed bandits” for nothing! I’d be up and then I’d be down. Up and down. Then down, down, down, up, down, gone! But you can play a lot of rounds on a $20 at the nickel machines! After that several us decided to go back to the hotel to rest and talk.

We grabbed a taxi and where told the fare to the hotel would be $40! Highway robbery, we thought! We jumped out of the taxi and called our friend from earlier! At least we asked for him! What a pleasant surprise when he arrived just a little bit later to pick us up! You’d think we were old friends out for the night!

It was late, and we wanted some drinks and water to take back to the hotel with us. Now not being familiar with the area, when the driver suggested “WAWA”, I thought it was his Bohemian accent I was hearing. Sure enough, we pulled up into the parking area of WAWA’s and unloaded for the quick pickup of refreshments. Soda, bottled water, and a ‘pit stop’! Back in the van and we were off to the hotel.

Several of us went to my room to view my pictures. We chatted for awhile and then decided it was bed time. One of my friends was staying with me and the other went to her room. Soon there was a knock at the door and here came the friend, pillow in hand, because her roommates were hogging the beds! We were going to have a pajama party! We talked until almost 4:00 AM! I think I was the last to fall asleep!

Daylight, or wake up, was around 8:30. We chatted some more, and then we had to get ready to leave. I was driving back to Philly, so I headed out around noon. I just forgot how I got to the hotel! Lost again! I stopped at a gas station for directions while talking to a friend on the phone who was trying to do a MapQuest for me. Directions in hand, I made my way back to Philly. Of course, the area was having a nor’ easterner and it was raining. That didn’t deter me!

I made it back in plenty of time. Because it was raining and I didn’t find a gas station before I turned in the rental, I wound up paying a premium for gas – nearly $7 per gallon, or about $72! They wouldn’t budge or agree it was unreasonable! I won’t be dealing with them again! I don’t care if it is in the contract! That’s gouging! I was robbed, I tell you!

At the airport I had to reschedule my flight because it was cancelled due to the weather. The best they could do was put me on the first flight out the next morning, give me a hotel voucher, and dinner. That was fine. I would go rest. Somehow it didn’t seem too bad. Until I realized I would have to get up at 3:00 AM to catch the shuttle to the airport! Morning came and I went to get on the shuttle. What!?!?! It's mid-April and the ground was covered with snow!

The shuttle driver drove a bit too fast for us. After all, he was outnumbered by four women! We got him to slow down a little. He was in a hurry because he had another run to make before his shift was up. We got off the bus and went into our terminal. I went to my gate since I had my boarding passes. I boarded the plane on time and then sat in line to be de-iced for an hour or so! As we landed in Detroit, my plane to Memphis was leaving the gate. Oh well, another reschedule and lunch on Northwest and I was good to go.

When I finally landed in Memphis, I knew I’d been on an adventure. It was time to get to work since I was already several hours late! Maybe next week-end won’t hold the same luck! Good thing I didn’t gamble too much on my plans!

Pictures from The Borgata

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Friday, April 13, 2007

The Traveling Circus Goes Round at North Fork Theatre

The trip to Westbury was definitely much like being in a traveling circus! Try putting two women in a car, head them south, one is definitely directionally challenged and the other is potentially directionally challenged! Yep, that was the way the trip was going to be. We managed to find I-95. Ok, my traveling companion knew her way there. But as we passed around New York City, all bets were off, and we would have to figure out how to get to Westbury.

Never mind that I had printed out Yahoo maps before I ever left home. They’re like MasterCard, you never leave home without it! I missed an exit that was more like a Y in the road. Went down a couple of exits, turned around, only to find out I was on the right road! Two wrongs sometimes really do make a right!

As we neared Westbury, we found ourselves taking exits and circling the towns. We’d take a right that should have been a left, a left that should have been a right. Forget going north or south. Heaven forbid I try to compute east or west! I’d wind up in Alaska if I wasn’t careful!

We started calling everyone we could think of. My daughter wasn’t home so she was of no help. Now get this. I’m on the phone with a friend in Memphis who is checking out the online maps and to try to figure out where we were and how to get to where we needed to go! After a bit of searching and more mindless driving and turning, we made it to Westbury. At least the signs outside the cemetery said we were in Westbury! It was one of those places everyone is dying to get into! (OK, bad joke, I know!)

We made a couple of stops and then we to the theatre. The North Fork Theatre is a very contemporary building with a huge parking area. It seems that the earlier you arrived, the further away you had to park! We were directed to our parking space, parked the car and locked it, and took off for the front door of the theatre.

Once inside we could see the various vending areas. A bar, a hot dog stand, counters for selling tour merchandise and a car dealership display. The facilities were quite nice. And there were plenty of stalls in the ladies’ rooms; yes, they had two ladies’ rooms! That’s something rare in theatre land.

Again, Toby Lightman was opening for Taylor Hicks. There were flat screens outside in the lobby, and I watched most of her performance there. After the driving adventure earlier in the afternoon, I needed to just stand around and chill out. Finally the intermission came, one last trip before the show, and I was ready to sit down.

I found my seat. Fourth row behind the sax and keyboard. Great seat. Nice view around the keyboards and through the microphone stands. This was going to be interesting! The stage is round and can rotate if the artist wants it to. However, the seats behind the stage weren’t being sold and the stage was not going to revolve. So you can imagine what my view for the night was going to be! Check out my pictures linked below to find out!

As Taylor came out on stage, he was waving his arms in the air to get the audience to do the “wave”. People were either too excited to see Taylor or didn’t understand the signal because very few were doing the “wave”. But the audience was certainly cheering Taylor on. After the opening walk, Taylor quickly moved into singing “Gonna Move” from his “Taylor Hicks” CD. This was also an old cover song Taylor was used to doing during his pre-Idol days. We were about to be moved!

Taylor performed other songs from his debut album. “Give Me Tonight”, “The Deal”, “The Right Place” and “Dream Myself Awake”. Now North Fork Theatre apparently has a ‘no standing up’ policy because most people were sitting. That was fine with me because I could see and sit! Trying to take pictures from the side of the stage was not easy because Taylor was facing the front of the stage most of the time. He did come toward the sides from time to time, but his show is not designed for this type of stage. That’s not his fault. The theatre opened up additional seats to sell more tickets on the fringes of the stage.

Taylor moved into some covers, “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” and “Compared to What”. There were lots of tagging other songs within these. It’s like a mini concert within a concert! Taylor was finding his groove and feeling the music, and the energy from him was energizing the crowd. After the show at the Foxwoods the night before, I was glad to see an audience that was into Taylor.

The audience was much more mixed tonight. There were lots of men and quite a few children. Everyone was seeming to enjoy the music, whether they stood, danced or just sat. From my vantage point, I could see the sparkling eyes of enjoyment. I may have been sitting, but my heart was certainly dancing with the music!

A few more songs, and then a couple of songs from Taylor Hicks’ independent CD, “Under the Radar”. “Somehow” and “Hell of a Day” are terrific songs that Taylor wrote and recorded before he decided to audition for American Idol. These are beautiful ballads, and perfect for Taylor’s voice. The ability to write a beautiful song is just another of Taylor’s musical talents.

As I’ve said, I was sitting to the side, really more to the back. I was soon about to learn a show secret! Now I’ve watched Felix the drummer do his thing at every show. He’s quite a drummer. I knew there was another person who helped him when he needed to swap out snares or sticks. I was about to find out just what else this guy did! Pretty soon it was time to do the funky “The Runaround”.

Now I love the drum introduction in “The Runaround”. I was always astonished at how Felix could make the drums sound like a marching band. What I discovered was that there are two drummers drumming to get that sound! I was awe struck just watching! Both drummers were in perfect unison! No misses of a beat! I completely forgot that Taylor was on stage because I was so mesmerized by the drummers! What a show!

As the song ended, Taylor waved to the crowd, bowed to the band and left the stage. The band followed. The house lights stayed dark. The crowd was cheering for an encore. The stage guy came out and set up the microphone and stool.

Taylor came out with his guitar in hand and sat down on the stool. No other band members joined him. We were about to be given a real treat – acoustical Taylor. Taylor plucked a few bars and then sang “Long Distant Love”. This was a song you had to hear to believe. The audience was silent. More like speechless! The song was beautiful! When he finished, Taylor waved, left the stage and the show was over.

I went back to the merchandise table to check on the Proud of Our Troops CD drive. The collection box was a success! Quite a few CDs were donated. Thank you to all who made a donation! I walked around to the buses to see if Taylor had been out. He had already been out and signed autographs and gone back inside the venue. Finally he came out with his toboggan and got on the bus without the crowd realizing it. Security asked us to move because the buses were ready to leave. With that, we found our car – all alone in the vast parking lot – and left.

Now if our adventure of getting to Westbury was exciting, our drive home was even more so! I was able to get out of Westbury without getting too lost, but getting back on the highway was something else. I wound up going in a circle before I realized I needed to take a different exit. We found the exit and were on our way. At least until we hit New York City! Again a wrong exit and I was driving around the Bronx and the outskirts of Manhattan. We made our way back to La Guardia airport and tried it again.

We started out from the airport, only to get lost again. Back to the airport we went. This time we decided to stop and ask a cab driver how to get to I-95. Turn right at the stop sign, go left, etc. Never mind. Would he lead us to the interstate and for how much? After paying what he asked, which was very reasonable, he led us to through the toll booth and pointed us on our way. Thank you sir for helping us! We were now headed back home.

Again we got lost. But that was fine, because we needed to get gas. Sticker shock for me – almost $3 a gallon. We filled up, got more directions and took off. We finally got on the right interstate and were off. No more wrong turns. We made it home safely. Another fun night with friends and Taylor!

The next collection box for the Proud of Our Troops CD drive will be at The Beacon in New York City. Please buy an extra CD and donate it to show your support for the troops. The CDs can be purchased right there at the merchandise table. Your support of this worthwhile group is greatly appreciated.

Westbury Pictures

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Traveling Circus Gambles on the Foxwoods

An early morning flight, a shuttle bus ride and a car rental later, I was in New Haven, CT, ready to go to the Foxwoods Casino to see none other than Taylor Hicks, live, in concert. You might think from that remark, this was my first time to see Taylor on his current tour. Wrong! But each show, each venue, each city brings newness to seeing one Mr. Hicks in person!

I’ve seen a number of shows, my blog posts will attest to that fact! This show was going to be a first for me. Now, I’m no prude (ok, maybe a little, but just a little!), and I’ve been to a casino before. As a matter of fact, I’ve been to several just over the Mississippi border from my Tennessee home. Yes, I’ve played a little black jack (thanks, Mom and the dealer for the lessons) and some slots. And had lots of seafood buffets! But the Foxwoods was going to be different!

First, getting there. Let’s see. Is it Exit 90, Route 27 or Exit 92, Route 2. Off Exit 90, Route 27 you will find Mystic Pizza II, an offshoot from the Julia Roberts and Kathy Baker movie. Interesting place. Too bad I didn’t take a picture; being behind the wheel has its drawbacks. After turning around, and hitting the interstate again, Exit 92, Route 2 led to the casino. Advertising says this is the largest casino in the US. I’ll buy that! It was huge!

We get parked and then hike to Fox Theatre. When I say hike, it was a quite a hike! We parked on the opposite side of the casino from the theatre, so we basically had to walk across the place. We meet up with a number of other Soul Patroller and introduce ourselves. I’ll protect the guilty and the innocent (me, of course!). I must say, though, I was happy to meet the fans I hadn’t met before. You know who you are!

Toby Lightman, a petite young lady, opened the show. I was too busy watching the concert goers at the merchandise table to go in to see her. I could hear her, and it was my loss.

Time to go sit down. I had a row J seat, but I wasn’t prepared for where the row was! I’d forgotten that the theatre has double-letter rows in front and that the single-letter rows were behind them. I was way up high! Way up – I’ve been spoiled by all those great seats I’ve been getting! I shouldn’t complain – I was there to see Taylor Hicks!

The need to explain the situation is scary. First, this is a theatre. Second, it’s inside a casino. Third, the best seats have been given to the “high rollers”. Fourth, there is a “no standing” rule, which means the audience will be seated during the show. Fifth, there were people asking “who is Taylor Hicks”, and these were the people with the better seats! BUT, ALAS, all is not lost! Being just a wee bit over five feet, it meant I was going to be able to see AND enjoy the show! And sit down!

Not that Taylor Hicks needs an introduction, but Brian Less called his name, and out he came to kick the show off with “Soul Thing”! Now the Soul Patrol, being respectful, sat and cheered! I was busy using my camera as binoculars! That 18X lens works wonders in such a place!

Now if Taylor wants to get an audience of women going, just tag “Let’s Get it On” with any song. But Taylor likes to tag it with “The Maze”. And tag it, he did! That set us up for “Run, Baby, Run”. OOOO! That’s one of my favorites. The melody is haunting, and the harmony just sends the chills up my spine. OOOO! OOOO!

Several standards from Taylor’s current CD, “Taylor Hicks” were played. I even heard a few new tags, at least new for me. “Me and Mrs. Jones” was a surprise tag with “Wherever I Lay My Hat”. Something called “Medicated Goo” showed up, and if it wasn’t for the published set list, I wouldn’t know what it was called. I wasn’t familiar with it. But I can tell you this, it’s make it’s way to my favorites list!

But what I do remember was “Hell of a Night”, a Taylor Hicks original from his independent album, “Under the Radar”. But for me the highlight of the show was “Somehow”, another of Taylor Hicks’ original songs. That was one heck of a ballad. No, it was mesmerizing! If I was a fainter, I would have fainted! It was wonderful!

Taylor ended the set with “The Runaround”, a funky little dance tune. It’s hard to stay seated during that song. But I restrained myself. OK, you got me. I sat there and moved with the music. And then Taylor left the stage. Taylor and the band came back for an encore of “Takin’ It to the Streets” with a bit of “Saint’s Go Marching In” harp-teaser.

What a show Taylor put on tonight! Forget about all the high-rollers. They just wanted to get back to the tables and slot machines. Many of the older gamblers (as in age) left early – the cards must have been calling. But the Soul Patrol stayed to the end to enjoy every last drop of Taylor.

The sad part of the evening was that Taylor’s music fell on deaf ears. The deaf ears of the high rollers. Many were there because they had tickets to a free show. Others came out of curiosity. Others came for whatever reason. It showed in their participation in the music. Applause was the most I saw many attempt to do. Before the end of the main set, there were a lot of empty seats in the front section. Such a waste! And many of the Soul Patrol would have given our first born for those seats! Again, it was their loss!

After the show, I watched the merchandise table and the people close by. It thinned out fairly quickly. With some ‘see ya laters’ we decided to try our luck at the slot machines. These machines aren’t called “one armed-bandits” for nothing! We found some nickel slots and I gave up a five dollar bill. All was not lost. I got some change! A couple of dimes to rub together!

Before leaving Foxwoods, we checked out the casinos to see what all was there. We found the tables and walked around like we were looking for our lost father. Entry was supposed to be for players only, so we had a plan ready just in case. We continued to look around a bit more before deciding we needed to get the car and head home. I was forgetting I was in unfamiliar territory and had a ninety minute drive back to reality.

After putting our ticket in the electronic valet, we waited for our car to be delivered. We piled in and made the drive back. As we drove, we relived the night. An evening with Taylor is always memorable, and tonight was no exception!

And now a word for a very special project. Foxwoods was a trial run for the Proud of Our Troops CD Drive. Fliers were passed out and the drive was explained. Buy a CD from the merchandise table and drop one in for the troops. It’s a great way to say thank you to the men and women who defend our freedoms on a daily basis. A CD is a small price to pay for that service. Do yourself, the troops and Taylor a service and favor – buy a CD and donate it to the troops. I thank you, and I’m sure the troops will thank you as well! Support our troop with a Taylor Hicks CD!


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Some of My Favorite Pictures