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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Traveling Circus Goes Red, White & BOOM!

There’s one thing about traveling on Friday afternoon – I usually have to work that morning. That’s not always easy because I’m excited about flying to some new place to watch Taylor Hicks perform his magic on the unsuspecting concert audience. Today was no different.

After several trips of getting lost trying to get to a hotel or venue, I decided I needed a new traveling companion. I thought she might like to be called Tay or Taylor even, but she wouldn’t speak to me again until I called Madge. So Madge and I picked up our rental car and took off to find our hotel in downtown Spartanburg. Like most of the places I have ventured this year, I’d never been to Spartanburg before, so I had no idea where I was going. But Madge did! As long as I listened to her I was fine! I did take a right when I should have taken a left. But that was ok, because I gave Madge the wrong address!

Madge, I must say, is pretty sleek! About 2 pounds of extra weight and fairly easy on the eyes as well! Of course, when I realize there’s some whatever out there that knows exactly where I am is rather scary to say the least! But with Madge, I do feel a bit more secure. Madge is my nickname for my new Magellan GPS system that I broke down and bought last night so I could make my trip this week-end!

I had a VIP ticket for the Red, White and BOOM celebration tonight. That gave me appetizers and drinks before the show, during the show if I chose to stay at the hotel ballroom, and maybe a drink after the show. Also included was a white folding chair about 100 feet give or take from the stage. The distance was going to play havoc with my picture taking but would probably make for a good cell cert!

By the time I got checked in and ready to go to the pre-party, it was seven. Show was to start around eight. I grabbed a quick soft drink and walked around the crowd. I saw a couple of ladies that I recognized but that was about it. I decided to go on over to the amphitheatre and wait it out there. Beside, I needed to get the cell cert set up and going so we would be ready when the concert started.

Now if you are a novice or never visited the Boogie Board, a cell cert is when someone at the concert calls the conference number and allows everyone on the conference call to listen to the concert on their phones. Only the person at the concert and the person who is the host can talk and everyone else is in listen mode only. It’s a great way to vicariously attend a Taylor Hicks concert when you can’t otherwise get there. We get everything connected and waited for the show to begin.

A local artist came on stage and played an electric guitar version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. At times it sounded more like screeching than anything else. I know it was a great patriotic song for the Fourth of July holiday, but I’ve heard much better versions!

After he finished, the crew came out and moved the band instruments around and prepared the stage for Taylor. The keyboards and drums were on rolling platforms. Finally it was show time!

Taylor Hicks took the stage without introduction other than the screaming adoration of the fans that were standing up to six people deep next to the stage! He did his “airplane” dance as he came out on stage. He wore an orange or burnt orange tee shirt with jeans and his usual black New Balance sneakers. Taylor was ready to be a moving, grooving, dancing machine, opening the concert with “Gonna Move”. And before the end of the concert, Taylor would look like he had been a contestant in a wet tee shirt contest!

Out came the red guitar and Taylor did “Heart and Soul”, one of the songs he wrote before American Idol. For good measure, some “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” found its way into the song. Taylor introduced the next song, his first single from his CD, “Just to Feel That Way”.

While he was singing, I looked over the crowd which was a vast span of ages from toddles to older than dirt and every age in between! And the audience was probably split evenly among genders. If I had to guess, I would say the number of people there would be in the seven to ten thousand range. I couldn’t see the last row behind me which was at least a hundred yards or more back!

Although I don’t recall any special acknowledgment, this was a special show. The Soul Patrol from several of the fan boards helped send over 100 military personnel from Fort Jackson to the show. On behalf of Taylor’s Angels and Proud of Our Troops, I would like to give a heart felt thank you for your support in making the ticket drive very successful. Because of the heat, I don’t think many of the military were in uniform, so it was heard to know just who was from Fort Jackson.

Turning my attention back to the show, Taylor talked about writing a jazzy little turn for a crazy friend and sang “My Friend”. He referred to its New Orleans feel, and he’s right about that! Another original, “Hell of a Day” had “Another Brick in the Wall” tagged with it.

Another crowd pleaser was “Medicated Goo”. Taylor wanted to make sure everyone know it was a Traffic song, because he told us that before and after the song! Got it, Taylor! Acknowledging that the song was performed during last summer’s American Idol Tour, Taylor sang the Beatles, “Don’t Let Me Down” after performing his own original “The Deal”. “The Deal”, Taylor told us is about the sacrifices we sometimes have to make in relationships, and hopefully we only had to do that once!

“It’s good to be back home,” shouted Taylor! A reference to being back in the South where sweet tea is the way to satisfy one’s thirst. Taylor was happy to know he was not up North for a while so he could get some sweet tea. He told us it had sent to the bathroom fifteen times already! Gotta love a man who can remind us he’s still at same down to earth guy we’ve come to enjoy and love!

Taylor went back to his self-titled CD to perform “Heaven Knows”, “The Maze”, and “The Runaround”. One of the tags was just chanting “believe” several times. There were other tags as well of lots of harmonica tonight. During “The Runaround”, as Taylor was starting to tag “Willie Brown Blues”, he sang “they call me Taylor” a couple of times! Oh, and there were lots of shout outs to the Soul Patrol! One of the shout outs were sung as a tag and the crowd, especially the ones in front of the stage were going crazy!

Let me explain the set up of the crowd. In front of the stage was the Soul Patrol area which was standing room only unless you furnished your own seat. The concrete walking area that’s step-terraced was the VIP section. Behind that was the general admission section where you either stood or sat in the chair you brought with you! Now during most of the show, any one who had a chair sat. My kind of show – I not much of a “stander” at the shows, preferring to sit and take lots of pictures.

When Taylor finished “The Runaround”, he waved good-bye, wishing everyone a happy Fourth of July week-end and acknowledging the band. He slapped a few hands of those standing on the front row in front of the stage. He exited behind the stage and waited for the band to finish and walk of the stage as well.

Shouts of “Taylor! Taylor!” signaled it was time to do an encore. As Taylor was coming back on stage, he was slinging water from his bottle out over the crowd in front of the stage. He told them to admit it felt good because it was so hot! By now, Taylor’s tee shirt looked like he was participating in a wet tee shirt contest!

About that time, Josh Smith, guitarist extraordinaire, was sprayed with silly string. I didn’t see who did it, but Taylor acknowledged that it was Josh’s birthday. Everyone came back out to do “Soul Thing”. When he finished the song, he crossed the stage a few times and then was gone. The band finished playing.

And when it was over! Boom! Boom! Boom! The fire works started! They were beautiful bursts of red, green, blue and white sparkles. The finale was a whole bunch of fireworks in all colors. Some bursts were higher than others and some lower than others. But it was beautiful!

I caught the shuttle back to the hotel because it was going to be a long hike otherwise. The second think I don’t do well is to walk long distances. The weather had been kind tonight – we only had a few, very few sprinkles during the show. And the temperature cooled down nicely before the show started. Back at the hotel, I considered going to the bar to grab a quick bite, but it was karaoke night, and the music was too loud.

Wait! I’d just come back from a concert, and the bar was too loud! So I went upstairs to my room and ordered room service. After all, I wanted to get my pictures posted to Photobucket as quickly as possible, and this way I could do some multitasking! Post pictures, write my recap and eat dinner! With my tasks done, and finally wound down from the show, it’s time to get some sleep before I have to check out at noon and head down to Charleston for another show tomorrow night!

Spartanburg pictures

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Traveling Circus Moves on to the Melody Tent

We started our early Sunday morning to drive back to Boston to take my traveling companion to the train station. I made one attempt at trying to find the South Street Station but gave up and went over to Logan Airport which was much easier to find. We said our good-byes and I took off for Revere to take a nap at the hotel I was staying in for Sunday night.

Now how many times have you ever run into the situation where the same hotel has two different addresses for the same place? Well, this one did! I had called the front desk for directions (thank goodness my travel agent sends me great information). I followed them to the letter. But as I got to Revere, I found a hotel by the same name but with a different address. Again I called the front desk and found out I was at the right place!

I got checked in, opened up my laptop and checked my messages. I needed a nap, and was ready for a bit of sleep. I set the alarm clock and my cell phone alarm to be sure I got up on time. After a 3-4 hour nap, I was ready to drive to Hyannis for the next show. After getting lost the day before trying to get to Cohasset, I was ready to make my way to Hyannis. I did it! All by myself! Without getting lost once! Great directions from the Melody Tent itself!

I found the gravel parking lot and parked. Some ladies from the New England Soul Patrol had already set up in the parking lot so I chatted with them for a bit. I was hoping to get some great seafood while I was in Massachusetts, but so far that had eluded me. I found out the restaurant that I had passed, the Paddock, had great seafood. It was just the other side of the parking pad where the buses were parked, so I decided to give it a try. Good choice! Some of the best clam chowder and crab cakes I’ve ever had!

By the time I got back to the Melody Tent, it was time to go it. I walked around a bit, noting that the paths were paved but the rest of the area was small pebbles or dirt. The Circus Tent was definitely a nicer venue (and both are owned by the same people!). I ventured to the restrooms, expecting a similar setting from the night before. WRONG! What I found was a single building (not the three the night before) and a row of port-a-potties! Not one for the outhouses, I waited in line to use the regular facilities. Good move!

I passed by the souvenir stand to see if they had anything new. Don’t know what I was expecting to find, but I looked none the less. By the way, new for the summer tour is a harmonica keychain engraved with Soul Patrol. The harmonica actually works! I bought one for each of my granddaughters so they could drive their parents crazy! And I think it’s working!

After a quick survey of the venue, I found my seat. The opening acting, comedian Dan something or other, was doing his monologue. I noticed it was much shorter than the night before because he left out his “getting laid” stuff. I was glad of that! Not age appropriate for a Taylor Hicks audience.

Finally security appeared and the band took to the stage. The usual musical opening was played. Then the famous flashlight over Taylor could be seen and he was coming down the aisle two sections over from me. The crowd was getting giddy just watching Taylor come down the aisle and cheering at the top of their lungs. Taylor started the night with “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”.

(Once the Taylor Hicks’ show started, I found out I couldn’t use my big boy camera (it wouldn’t fit in my pocket), so I had to resort my smaller, not so good camera which lacks the stabilizer and available lighting features that the larger camera has (which accounts for my being able to get great shots!). So please forgive the lack of good quality pictures from the show. Do bloggers qualify for a press badge? I could really use one sometimes!)

A definite crowd pleaser, “Hell of Day” had “Another Brick in the Wall” tagged into it. Taylor Hicks is the master of tagging as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know how it does it, but he makes it seem like it is part of the song – so natural! “Medicated Goo” for the Soul Patrol follows, along with shout outs! Soul Patrol, to you too, Taylor! Soul Patrol!

In some ways the set list is starting to sound a lot like last night’s show. Almost in the same order! Not really like Taylor at all! Taylor finally mixes it up by throwing in “The Deal” after “Just to Feel That Way” and “My Friend”. Another round of “Hold On to Your Love” for tonight. Ah, a soothing change to set list: “Young Turks”. I’m now a very happy camper as they say! I love Taylor’s version of this song. We got “Eastbound and Down” sandwiched into “Soul Thing” next. And then “Heaven Knows”.

By this point I was getting really frustrated – I wasn’t getting any good pictures and the guy in front of me who was video taping had been told by security to put away the camera. I’d started to take note that the sound was not as good as the night before, and that Taylor’s voice was sounding more like he was having to scream into the microphone. Was I tired? Had I just been to one show too many? Did Taylor really appear to not be as energetic as the last two nights? Was the rotating stage getting to everyone? Not be negative here, but I’d just seen two great shows and tonight was not up to the same great level as the two previous nights. I kept feeling that Taylor may have just lost his best friend. At times he seemed a bit down. Not the usual Taylor I was accustomed to seeing on stage. Not the man who had performed when he was so sick he should have been in bed rather than performing. I kept telling myself it was because I couldn’t use my bigger camera and that I was a bit mad about that.

Taylor really did seem to be giving it everything he had to give. I had noticed more than once that Taylor needed to look at the set list on Loren’s keyboard. I don’t ever recall having noticed him do that before! So onto “The Maze” which included “Let’s Get It On” and lots of great harp. And not to mention the shouts of adoration from the female fans in the audience! The set was rounded out with “The Right Place” and “The Runaround”.

I was expecting Taylor to exit the stage like he did the night before, but instead he stayed on the stage and said he would move right on into the encore because his bass player (Al or Boogie) was going to be sick if he had to leave and come back for an encore. I can’t say I was surprised – Al moved as much as Taylor and add that to a revolving stage! I’m surprised I wasn’t getting motion sick trying to watch all the movement!

Taylor and company were going to leave Hyannis with “Taking It to the Streets”. This was his last chance to take us to church for the night. As it ended, Taylor took his bows and left back up the same aisle he came down. Al was able to get off the stage without incident and the entire band made their exits. The show was over and it was time to head back to my car.

I looked around to see if there was a place that Taylor might come out to sign autographs while he was still in the venue. No such place was there, so I made my way to the parking lot near the buses. There was a huge crowd already lined up! My, this was probably the largest group of fans I’d ever seen waiting for Taylor to show up. Taylor did not disappoint! I was able to capture a few shots before he was gone and the crowd dispersed.

I drove back to Boston to my hotel lost in my thoughts and comparing tonight’s show to Cohasset. My conclusion was the same – Cohasset had been better. I would later learn that Taylor had said he was pretty tired, and for the first time, it seemed to show in his performance. But that was fine with me – I’d gotten my Taylor fix and that would last me for the next two weeks when I get to go to Spartanburg’s Red, White and BOOM! See ya’ll there!

Pictures from Hyannis

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Traveling Circus Visits the Music Circus

It’s was a great day for flying from Elmira to Boston via Philadelphia! I was still jazzed from the concert the night before and ready to get to my next fix. Once I was on the ground in Boston, I collected my luggage and picked up the rental car and traveling companion. My plans were to drive to Cohasset for Saturday and then on to Hyannis on Sunday for the third show of the week-end.

Now if you are from the south, you are probably quite used to street markings and directional signs that make sense. I don’t know who planned the highway and street marking in Massachusetts, but they would do well to take a few lessons! As to getting lost and taking forever to find my way out of Boston, I’m placing the blame there. Can I also blame the Yahoo! maps I had? A notation said something like .5 miles when it should have said 5 miles! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

When I was making hotel reservations for the Cohasset show, many of the local hotels were full! Where might I find a room was becoming the general response to ‘No Vacancy’. Finally, an inn in Scituate was found, and I would be staying at ‘The Inn in Scituate Harbor’. Now on the map I had, I questioned the harbor part when it appeared that there was no water anywhere close by. I was wrong! From my room I had the view of the harbor with the boats anchored in the harbor! It was really a beautiful sight. The inn was quaint, as was the town center which was just around the bend in the road.

After the Yahoo! maps fiasco, we decided to get directions from the desk. That was the best thing! She wrote down very concise directions (and much easier than what Yahoo! had) and left them on the counter when she took a quick break. In just a few minutes we pulled into the parking lot of the Music Circus. The venue consists of a circus tent structure with seats around a round revolving stage. The tent had flaps that could be up or down, depending on the weather and temperature. For tonight, the tent flaps were down. There are building for concessions, souvenirs, and restrooms. Lots of ladies’ room facilities!

The gates opened at 7:00 but you couldn’t go to your seat until 7:30, so we walked around a little and then found a bench to sit on to people watch. It’s always nice to see familiar faces when I travel, especially when I’m by myself. I had picked up a traveling companion when I came through Boston (which was planned) so I wasn’t completely alone this trip. But our seats were not together for the show. When we finally got to sit down, my friend was only a few rows behind me!

The opening act was a comedian by the name of Dan whose last name escapes me. He referred to himself as the ‘kid with the Jew fro’ or ‘cauliflower hair’. His jokes were a bit flat at times, and at other times evoked a few laughs. Most of his material was about life in general and ‘getting laid’. Not too appropriate for the array of ages in the audience! Ok, my grandmother instinct is coming out. The audience was all ages and gender! A nice mix for a Taylor Hicks show though!

Show time! The band made their way down the aisle to my right and took the stage. Kind of reminiscent of Taylor’s entrance during last summer’s American Idol Tour! After the usual musical intro, Taylor ran down the same aisle and up on the stage! A few waves and “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” started off the show. What a way to start the night. Taylor Hicks was at high energy level and was going to get even higher! To keep the momentum going, “Hey Pokey Way” with “Mardi Gras Mambo” followed.

Now keep in mind that this stage rotates – first one direction and then turns and goes the other direction. Imagine the entire time that Taylor is moving and grooving, running around the stage, behind the musicians and back. I would have been dizzy, but not this man! He was a fever pitch and enjoying the moment! Every last one of them, all maybe 70 to 90 of them! And so were we! The audience forms a circle around the stages, and the theatre boasts that no seat is more than 50 feet away from the stage! I believe it! My seat was great! (The pictures will prove it!)

I really enjoy hearing Taylor do some of his original music, and I think the summer tour will showcase that more. Even by the end of the spring tour, Taylor was doing more of his pre-Idol music. It’s much more soulful and gives one the feeling that Taylor is a natural writer, singer, musician, performer and entertainer all in one package.

“Heart and Soul” was next. I love the way “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” seems to make it into his music – and how Taylor acts out the “high fly into the stands” and waits for to see if Loren will add the ballpark riffs. Will he or will he not – and the playful repeat of the lines just to tease us!

“Hell of Day” followed and was tagged with “Another Brick in the Wall”. Now I’m noticing that the audience stands some and sits some (I’m a sitter, myself) depending on the section. The fans are grooving right along with the music. And for those who need a cure, “Medicated Goo” is sure to provide that. I must confess, until I started traveling to see Taylor perform, I’d never really heard some of the tags he uses, like “Another Brick” or “Medicated Goo”, but I have to admit that these are great songs. I love hearing them and can’t help but have a silly grin on my face when Taylor performs them!

Thank goodness for the Boogie Board set list because I have a terrible memory (remember the white hair!) so I have to refer to them to help me write my blog. Thanks to you ladies who do this! It’s about time I give you a shout out for your dedication and wonderful cellcerts!

Back to Taylor’s debut CD and first major single for “Just to Feel That Way”. Just thinking about how Taylor performs this song, and I visualize him scrunching up with his arms close to his chest as he wails into the mike and his knee is almost under the microphone. I don’t remember if that’s the way he did it in Cohasset, but that’s how I picture it, anyway!

Some more Taylor Hicks originals are next. “Hold on to Your Love” gets “Can’t Trust Your Neighbor” tagged into it. Rather appropriate tags and some genius as well! Then a song written for a crazy friend, “My Friend”. Taylor tags into “My Friend” some “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “What a Wonderful World”. The last tags was just a few bars, but what I’d have given to hear a little bit more!

Somewhere during the last few songs, one brave fan yelled out “I love you, Taylor” to which Taylor responded with “I love you too” without missing a beat in the song! Lucky lady! Someone else did it later and was rewarded with “Soul Patrol” for her efforts.

Before the show was over, “The Runaround” was performed with Taylor’s encouragement to get up and dance. This really is a hard song to sit through so I’m up and taking pictures as I do my own style of dancing in place (called standing still!). When the song ended, Taylor thanked us for coming, waved and got down off the stage. He went around to what would have been the backside from me, shook a few hands in the front row, and then went back up on the stage for the finale. The band didn’t leave (the rotation of the stage probably was the reason!).

The finale was “Take Me to the Pilot”. When it was over, Taylor ran back up the aisle he came down and was gone. The show was now officially over. Or was it!?! The band left the same way and then the lights came on. We gathered our belongings and made our way outside.

By the time I got out of the tent, a large crowd had gathered near the souvenir stand. I stood around to watch. Good thing I did! In just a few minutes Taylor along with security (Bill to be specific) appeared and Taylor was out signing autographs and giving photo opportunities to those with cameras. Now I was excited to see Taylor – he was wearing a red STAX tee shirt! I love red, and seeing Taylor in red was great – I just wish he’d wear it more often! I took a few pictures, but the lighting caused the red to turn into a bright pink! Even that looks good on Taylor! So please, when you see the pictures, know that the shirt is red, red, not pink!

After Taylor left the area, we headed for our car and drove back to the inn in Scituate. Since we were thirsty, we drove around the town area to see what was open (not much) and found a service station. With bottles of water and a few snacks, we headed back to the inn to look at our pictures and talk about the concert. What a great night this was! We finally wound down enough to get some sleep because Sunday morning we had to get up early to drive back to Boston to put my companion on the train for home and for me to drive to Hyannis. Catch up with you there as the traveling circus heads on over for the third show of the summer tour!

Pictures from Cohasset


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Traveling Circus is Revived in Big Flats

As my plane was landing at the Elmira/Corning airport, I was watching out the window and noticed all the tree-covered mountains. I was amazed at all the greenery and the mountains. I wasn’t expecting the mountains. I could also see towns in the valleys between several ranges of mountains. After all, I was going to Big Flats, NY, so I was expecting level terrain.

After getting off the plane, I retrieved my luggage and picked up my rental car. I was going to head over to Tag’s early to check out the area. What a treat was in store for me by doing so!

I found a parking space in front of the bar/restaurant and started to gather up my stuff for the show. As I was doing so, I noticed the buses were parked on the back side of the stage. And who was out walking about outside the buses! None other than the leader of the Soul Patrol, the star of the night, Mr. Taylor Hicks! Even from the distance, I could tell that he was well-rested from the spring tour and ready to get back on the stage for his opening show of the summer tour!

Since I was already at Tag’s, I decided to make my way around to where a small crowd was gathering. Most of the ladies there had won a meet & greet from Taylor Hicks Headquarters, or THHQ, as the members call it. There were a number of familiar faces that like me, wanted to see the opening show. We stood around and told stories about our spring travels, a few Taylor antidotes, and what we thought about….Taylor in general! Like what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, same way with Big Flats!

Now if there had been a big tent for us to sit under, instead of the traveling circus being revived, it would have been a big tent revival! Taylor was going to take us to church, help us get our groove on, and leave us wanting a lot more. Suffice it to say, the traveling circus has been revived! I’m as happy as Taylor about being back on the road myself!

Dan Mills, a local musician, was the opening act. He started out with “Walking in Memphis”. I felt very special since that’s about my home town! He did a few more numbers, but nothing I was familiar with. I suspect he wrote a number of the songs he did. Some told stories and were cute, like “My Girl’s a Centerfold” or something like that.

The stage was the typical outdoor type of stage with all the lights and mesh and aluminum poles that is very modern and sleek. Terrific acoustics! Tonight was going to rock! We had heard parts of the sound checks and knew the place was going to be good. Too bad no recording devices were allowed! For those that bought seated tickets, the chairs were white plastic patio chairs from several summers ago! Beat having to stand or sit on the ground! And they were available to rent for the general admission ticket holders who forgot to bring their own seats!

There was something unique about Tags. You had to purchase tickets on the way in to buy food and drinks. This way they could move the lines faster without the food handlers having to handle the money as well! Rather efficient in a way. But also a nuisance because you had to get into separate lines at the different outdoor buildings. Still, it was a great experience. Glad Taylor was booked there! Oh, and it’s very rustic looking!

Finally 9:15 arrived and the band took the stage! The same intro as the spring tour – there was nothing new there. It let us know that while the sets may change each night, the intro remains the same! A bit of Taylor being true to his music, maybe. With night fall, the temperature had started to drop, but not enough for Taylor Hicks to don his usual gray shirt and jacket. Instead he wore a black “STAX” tee shirt with jeans and his signature black new balance shoes. He came out ready to perform!

The set started with “Gonna Move”. Yep, we’re gonna move tonight! The crowd of men, women and children were about to have a musical experience. Much of the crowd was up dancing – some even spilled into the walkways and aisles. Security was on the ball – get in the aisles, get sent back to your seat! Ladies, especially, were waving arms, shaking hips, and dancing in front of the seats. I had to stand to take pictures! Ah! Yes, we’re gonna move, alright!

Taylor’s opening tour concert proved to be a delightful mix of his debut self-titled album, “Taylor Hicks”, his pre-Idol independent CDs (“In Your Time” and “Under the Radar”), and several covers, you know, previously recorded songs from well-known artists. And then the infamous tags! Lots of tags!

“Heart and Soul” was next, and then a Taylor-classic, “Hell of a Day”. One of my favorite tags, “Another Brick in the Wall” was incorporated in the song. And for those in need of medical care, “Medicated Goo” would cure anything ailment! Guaranteed! Not a song to get sit and listen to no matter how hard I might try!

Taylor went back to post-Idol CD with “Just to Feel That Way”, his first single from the album. Without missing a beat, Taylor gave us more of his original music, “My Friend”, “The Deal”, and “Hold On to Your Love”. Some great tags, “Jump in the Line”, “Mardi Gras Mambo” and “Banana Boat Song”. Taylor asked the audience if they ‘did the salsa up here’ and proceeded to do his version of the salsa. Those dance moves always drive the ladies wild!

A new song, at least to me, “Blues Break”. I don’t recall hearing it during the spring tour. But Taylor did do a song from the spring tour that I really enjoyed listening to – “Run Baby Run”!

Another Taylor Hicks original, “Soul Thing” was sung, and included tagging “Eastbound and Down”. No way to be down at a Taylor show. Too much energy! Taylor just doesn’t stop moving, jumping, swaying, or anything else!

The show ended with “Heaven Knows”, “The Maze”, “The Right Place” and the ever-funky “The Runaround”. The temperature has cooled enough to allow for lots of dancing for the audience, and most people, especially the ladies, were doing just that! In some cases, the wild dancing was show in itself! (Wonder how they were feeling Saturday morning!)

Just down the road about 100 yards were an amusement park with rides and whatever. During “The Maze”, there was a fireworks display, and Taylor started shouting ‘finale, finale, finale’. It seemed rather appropriate when Taylor stopped singing and told us ‘he had bought those just for us! And even got a discount!’ As the final fireworks were being set off, Taylor actually stopped singing for a moment, stepped toward the edge of the stage and watched the final shower of rockets! I had to chuckle to myself when he did this – he reminded me of a little boy watching the display! (OK, sue me – I’m a grandmother after all, and Taylor is younger than my grown daughter!)

And without seeming to miss a beat, Taylor finished “The Maze” and moved right on into “The Right Place”. From time to time Taylor would shout out ‘Big Flats’. He thanked us for coming tonight, and for the opportunity to open his summer tour in such a nice place. For tonight, Big Flats was definitely the right place.

At the end of “The Runaround”, Taylor waved goodnight and left the stage. Now we all know, Taylor never stops without an encore. And this show was no different. The band left the stage and quickly returned to backup Taylor Hicks as he performed “Badge”, another cover that he does so well. When the song ended, Taylor bade us good-bye and he was gone.

With the show over, and the summer tour officially kicked off, several of us exchanged our thoughts about how great the concert was, and then called it a night. I still had to find my hotel, and not being familiar with the area, left Tag’s. I made it to the hotel without getting lost (ok, so I went west when I should have gone east which meant I had to find an exit to get turned around right). With a good night’s rest I would be ready for the next leg of my trip as the traveling circus boarded a plane bound for Boston and then on to Cohasset and Hyannis!

Pictures from Big Flats

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Pied Piper of Soul

I’ve thought about the Robert Browning story, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” lately. You remember the children’s story about the town of Hamelin that was being over taken by rats. The town council offered money to a piper to take the rats away, but when they refused to pay up, he took the children away as well.

Consider for a moment that Taylor Hicks is the pied piper and the children are the Soul Patrol. How many of us have heard the call? That sweet, whiskey-tenor voice that calls us dance wildly and let out shouts of “WHOOO” and “We love you Taylor” at random intervals. The guitar-strumming that leaves us puzzled as to how anyone can play open-handled and pick-less. That clinking of the tambourine as it pounds against the chest. Or those harmonica riffs that melt us to putty and cause us to scream out for more.

And what about the children of the Soul Patrol, those middle-aged, overweight, housewives as we’ve been called, whether the description is justified or not. We have attended his shows in packs, groups, cliques, or solo. We have attended multiple shows. We spend hours planning our next escape to watch this young man dance and dazzle us with his voice and instrumental ability. We have gathered in strange cities, far away from the safety of our homes. We’ve made friends with total strangers who share a common love.

It’s not really such a far stretch to see Taylor Hicks as the pied piper of soul or the Soul Patrol as those children. I’m guilty as charged. After a spring of multiple shows (check out the Traveling Circus), I’ve already packed my bags for the summer tour (yes, the Traveling Circus will be back). When I hear that harmonica, just like the children of Hamelin, I am beckoned to follow.

Will you be joining me on the summer journey? After all, it really is all about the music! And spending time with our fellow children! Do you hear it? That harmonica melody, the one that goes with “Long Train Running”? Are you ready to follow? I’ll meet you in Big Flats on Friday as we follow the sweet melody of our pied piper!

SOUL PATROL! Play on, Taylor Hicks! We’re right behind you!

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Traveling Circus Gains Soul in Elvis' Birthplace

It was a hot and balmy night. I always wanted to write a story that started out that way, much like Snoopy when he writes his Red Baron stuff. It was warm, overcast, and showers around the area. We drove through a few showers on our drive to Tupelo. By the time we found a place to park, the rain stopped and the sun came out. So did the heat!

We had packed several coolers with food and water only to find out we couldn’t take them in. Not ones to waste food, we decided to have a tailgate party outside the festival gates. Hmmm! Sandwich makings with veggies and dips! After cleaning up from our snack, we grabbed our lawn chairs and headed for the entrance to the back side of the stage where Taylor Hicks was going to perform later.

At 6:00 pm we had to settle for the right side facing the stage. Security blocked off where we wanted to go, so we took our spots in for the fourth or fifth row depending on the staggering of the chairs already there! Several friends spotted us and came over to speak. It was like a family reunion of the Soul Patrol of sorts. I had the chance to talk with a number of people I’ve meet this past year on my travels to see Taylor Hicks or Little Memphis Blues Orchestra in concert.

As we sat and waited for the appointed time, there was other entertainment for us before Taylor. It was obvious who the crowd was there to see. No question about it! Probably three-fourths of the audience was there solely for Taylor! Heck, there were five in my little group alone! They audience was from all over, not just Mississippi or Alabama or Tennessee. Some friends from Texas had driven over for the show! Taylor has a great following, that’s for sure!

I must admit that I had some concerns about Taylor performing with LiMBO at the Elvis Presley Festival. Would this be a bad career move considering Taylor had just ended his first national tour and was getting ready to start the summer tour? How would the boys in the band compare to the tour band from the spring? Any concern would soon be unnecessary! The whole concert would show another deeper, musical side of Taylor!

At one point I thought I caught a glimpse of Taylor wearing a black tee shirt and beige cap pointing towards the stage. But then he disappeared. The announcer can out to tease us about seeing Taylor and told us that Taylor had just finished some backstage stuff. I guess I really did see Taylor after all! He looked great! I was getting excited for show time!

Right at 9:15 the band took the stage – Zippy on drums, Brian on keyboards, Mitch on bass, Jeff on sax and Wynn Christian on guitar (he was standing in for Sam who had a family engagement he needed to attend). Quick intro and Taylor Hicks was right out there in front! Jacket, jeans and black tee shirt that read “STAX” in white letters! Taylor was smiling and his happiness was radiant! He was glad to be there!

We were being treated to a 75-minute show of Taylor Hicks performing Ray Charles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Crocker, and Taylor Hicks to name a few! Taylor performing Taylor Hicks, what a novel idea! What an incredible choice!

Taylor performed some of his own original songs that were written long before American Idol made him a household name with a Soul Patrol following. “Hell of a Day”, “In Your Time” (from his first independent CD by the same name and written when Taylor was a mere 19!), “Hold on to Your Love”, and “Soul Thing”. What a treat to see and hear Taylor do “In Your Time”! I’d read that he performed the song the night before at Alabama Adventures, so I was hoping we’d get the same treat in Tupelo! And we did!

Other songs from the spring tour included “Gonna Move” (also on Taylor’s first major label CD), “Badge”, “Rockin’ Pneumonia & the Boogie Woogie Flu”, “Call Me the Breeze” and “What’d I Say”. The sound was different in Tupelo but just as good as the spring touring band. Taylor was Taylor, moving and dancing across the stage in the manner that only Taylor can call his own. This was Taylor Hicks in his element – entertaining his audience.

Taylor Hicks with Little Memphis Blues Orchestra was an incredible concert! Not to be repetitive, but these guys were so in sync with each other you would have thought they performed together every night! They were tight! They were happy together! They were having a great time in spite of the night heat and infrequent breezes. They were hot! So hot in fact that Taylor’s jacket sleeves were wet and so were his jeans! Now that’s pretty hot!

We all know how gracious Taylor is to other musicians. Several times over the course of the performance he introduced the various members. He even gave Wynn Christian the opportunity to sing his own original “Seven Mile Breakdown”. And then kudos for Jeff for playing both the saxophone and clarinet at the same time! Now that really takes a lot of musical talent! I’ve seen Jeff do this before, and was so happy to see him do it again in Tupelo! From time to time Taylor would go up and play off each musician to spotlight that person. It was incredible to see!

So after all the shows I’d been to this spring, this show was equal to anything else I had experienced. It makes no difference what band backs Taylor Hicks, it is a powerhouse of entertainment! Taylor Hicks commands his band with finesse leaving one to wonder if this was the band he always played with, whether LiMBO or his touring band or any other band he might happen to sit in with. The concert was definitely worth the wait in the heat!

And for those who weren’t aware, Taylor had some very special guests on the stage while he performed. A group of young children, probably 5 to 12 years old were sitting on the left side of the stage. They were hard to see. And when I was able to see them, I could tell they were enjoying Taylor Hicks as much as I was!

There were a couple of ladies on my left that I was talking to while the band set up. They were asking how it was that we knew so much about the band. I made my confession (which would have sent any therapist running for the straight jacket to put me in!) as did the rest of our group. They were amazed at what we’d done, but in the end, they were just as amazed as everyone else at how well Taylor performed! And that’s what I would have expected!

Oh yes, and one member in our little group was there just to tag along (or at least tried to make us think that!)! On the ride home, we got a confession – he, too, enjoyed Taylor! I happen to know that he plans to see Taylor again during the summer!

So after a great night with Taylor, I’m looking forward to his summer tour starting in two week in Big Flats, NY. I’ll be there right along with the rest of the traveling circus!

Some of My Favorite Pictures