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

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Traveling Circus Brings Clouds to Pompano Beach

After the show in Clearwater, I wasn’t able to sleep all that well, so I decided to sleep in a bit before heading over to Pompano Beach. With the car packed, I typed in the address to the next hotel and took off in my silver PT Cruiser rental! What a nice piece of machinery it was! Since I had plenty of time for travel, I decided I would take a slight detour and see a few sights.

Since it was dark and wet when I drove into Clearwater the night before, I could only smell the ocean, but I could make out the waves in the blackness of the night. So on the drive to Pompano I was hoping that I would see some ocean. The drive would take me down I-75 and across a beautiful bridge in what I think was Tampa Bay. It’s a tall bridge with a design that reminds me of a sailboat’s outstretched sails. Perhaps you know where I’m talking about.

Anyway, as I started to cross the bridge I noticed a long pier down below and regretted immediately that I hadn’t taken the exit. When I got to the other end of the bridge, there was another pier, and I wasn’t going to pass it up! I took the exit, paid my $3.50 for one hour on the pier, and followed the road to the end of the pier. I wanted to take a few pictures of the water and bridge, and a few of the birds on the rails and night lights.

After a few short minutes, I was back in the car and soon back on the interstate. I watched the GPS signals and soon discovered I didn’t know where I was headed. Next thing I know I’m getting on US 80 and then getting back on I-75 and then I-95 and who knows where else! But I must say, the drive was peaceful. I passed the time just thinking about the concert the night before and watching the dark clouds in front of me.

It was those dark clouds that concerned me. Before long I was running in and out of rain. For a while, it was more in the rain than out of it! Would the concert still go on? After all, Taylor Hicks would be performing in the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, which is an open theatre with a huge white tent over the staging area. The band gets to stay dry but so much for the audience!

Calls were being made to friends already in Pompano who were constantly checking the weather and checking in. Plans were being finalized for me to do the Boogie Board cell cert. Other calls were just to check in and chat. I may travel a lot, but I still have to keep in touch!

The clouds were moving out of Pompano and seemed to be meeting me wherever I turned. Then the call came – it’s raining in Pompano Beach! But the rain would be short-lived and serve to cool the air. We were going to have a show tonight!

As I was checking into my hotel, I met my friends in the lobby. We decided to go up to my room to chat and decide what to do about dinner. One of the ladies had a meet & greet so we needed to be at the venue a little early for that. Dinner at the hotel was the call, so we headed down to see what the fare would be.

Now I have to tell you a funny story. In our little troupe was a small child. Cute as a button with dark, thick pigtails! Her mom ordered her the kid’s macaroni and cheese. Forget the fact that it took forever to get it, but the child didn’t want to eat it! Finally Mom took a bite and understood – it was hot! Not that we didn’t believe her, but several of us motherly types tried it as well. Some jalapeno had definitely gotten into the dish! No wonder she wouldn’t eat it! The kitchen chef was sure there was nothing hot in it, but the manager decided to see for herself! WHOA! It was spicy! Free dinner for my friends and drinks and dessert for us after the concert! I’m really sorry the poor baby had to eat that stuff, but the after concert snacks were really good!

We made our way to the venue and found a place to park. The Pompano Beach Amphitheater was an older venue, but acceptable. We had front row seats, but they were off to the side in front of speakers about 15 feet from the stage. Oh well! There was plenty of leg room in front of us, so we would have room to stand and dance!

The venue was probably half sold, and the crowd was a nice mix of men, women and children. Every age conceivable was probably there, except infants! A good number of the crowd would dance while the rest preferred to sit. As the show began, I watched the dark, thick pigtails sway to the music as she stood in front of us to get a better view of Taylor! After all, Mommy traveled to see Taylor, so she wanted to see Taylor and now she was right there!

Taylor Hicks opened his concert “Gonna Move” and a shout out to Pompano Beach! “Give Me Tonight” and “Heart and Soul” followed. The alcohol was flowing and the people behind me were feeling it! One lady had to be sent back to her seat so many times that I wondered why security just didn’t remove her. She would act so indignant when she was chastised by security! Too bad she had the seats right behind me because she was interfering with my enjoyment of the concert!

Soon Taylor was singing “Just to Feel That Way”. When he finished that song, he announced that a ‘really, really good friend had requested “Lowdown” and he was going to honor the request. That was probably the best song of the night! Next came the crazy friend song written by Taylor, “My Friend”.

One of my favorite songs, Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks”, made the set list. It had been quite a while since I’d heard it and I was ready to enjoy it tonight! The Beatles, “Don’t Let Me Down” was next. I must confess I like “The Deal” and “Run Baby Run” a lot, and this was the place to get them both!

Taylor Hicks finished out the main set with “Heaven Knows”, “The Maze” and “The Runaround”. The drunken lady behind me had gotten up and had her husband come down to the stage for a picture with her. I think by now security had had it’s fill of her and just left her alone. Other ladies with them were egging them on about the pictures, even going to get a few of their own! Oh, and these same so-called friends kept having a conversation that was most disturbing to the point I finally asked them to be quite when they asked the lady next to me to sit down (pot calling kettle black because these same ladies had been standing and dancing just seconds before!)

Now when Josh was playing on one of the songs, I don’t remember which, Taylor let the crowd know that Josh would be playing at The Poorhouse after the show and that we were all invited. My friends and I later decided to pass and go back to the hotel for dessert, etc.

When the band came back out for the encore, the masses rushed the stage and security just backed away. There was little else they could do! “Soul Thing” was the final song. With a bow to the band and shout outs of “Taylor Hicks”, Taylor left the stage and headed backstage to cool down.

With a lot of unruly crowd, the concert was not as enjoyable as usual, and that disappointed me. Perhaps Taylor was feeling their behavior and just having his own reaction to it. The energy and vibe from the night before just didn’t seem to be there. Maybe the outdoors, the heat, crowd or whatever was getting to him as much as to those of us who were sober and trying to enjoy the show. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good concert, but I didn’t come away with the exhilaration that I usually do when Taylor seems to be on fire and that connection with audience can be felt.

As we walked back to our vehicles, we could see a crowd gathering by the fence. We got in line and waited to see what was going to happen. Reward was awaiting us for our efforts – Taylor came out to the edge of the fence at the driveway entrance. We filed by Taylor as he autographed tickets, CDs, books, and pictures. I tried to take a couple of pictures but didn’t think I was getting anything because when I clicked the camera, someone stepped in front of me. Later, when I was reviewing my pictures, there it was – a picture of Taylor by the fence! That was the best surprise of the night!

The drive back to the hotel was filled with discussion on the concert. One thought it was terrific, another thought great, and me, just so-so. I’ve seen a number of shows, and this wasn’t one of the best I’d seen, especially given what I had enjoyed last night in Clearwater. Anyway, we were going on to Orlando for the show at Hard Rock Live with high expectations, so we figured we needed to head to bed early, but first we needed the fortification offered earlier by the hotel’s restaurant manager!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Traveling Circus Gets Immersed in Clearwater

Today started out like most Fridays lately – very warm! I was catching a ride to work with my boss who is very much a morning person, so I had to be ready to go by 7:00 am! I’m usually just opening my eyes about that time, but not today! I have to be ready, so it’s a quick shower, finish packing, read my emails and give the cats some loving before I leave.

The life of a corporate tax accountant in the summer has to be flexible – late nights, week-ends, changes in plans, etc. The plan was to ride with a couple of people going to lunch who agreed to drop me off at the airport. But duty called, and I needed to stay a little longer. That meant I would have to take a cab to the airport. That worked out fine.

By the time I got to the airport, the security was pretty much empty so I was able to breeze right on through. I grabbed a quick bar-be-que sandwich to eat on the plane as I walked through the airport, and got to my plane in plenty of time to get seated and comfortable. By the time the doors were ready to close, I was wiping my mouth with my napkin and putting everything in the bag for trash.

Before we hit the friendly skies, I was asleep. With two hours of flying time ahead of me, a nap would easily fill the time. As we circled the Tampa airport, I woke up to notice it was very cloudy outside. Actually, we were in a cloud! Then we circled again. The dreaded announcement soon came – because of the weather, we were being diverted to Orlando to refuel and wait out the storm. But by the time we landed in Orlando, that airport was surrounded by storms! To pass the time, I made a few phone calls and decided to read for a little bit.

Now I need to back up a second here. My original plan had been to fly into Orlando, rent a car, and drive back up to Clearwater. I had just made flight changes yesterday, and now here I was in Orlando! Since Tampa was less than thirty minutes away from Clearwater, I opted to remain on the flight and take my chances on making the concert in time.

Around 7:00 pm we were ready to take off for Tampa. It would be a 20-30 minute flight. Ok, I was starting to get a bit nervous, but I was still thinking it was do-able. We landed before 7:30 pm and I quickly got off the plane and went to baggage to collect my suitcase. I still needed to pick up the rental car.

With all my stuff, I headed for the exit and caught the shuttle to the car rental. Every clerk was helping someone, and I started watching the minutes tick away. Finally, by a few minutes after 8:00 pm, it was my turn. With paperwork and rented GPS in hand, I walked to my car and loaded up. I plugged in the information for Ruth Eckerd Hall and was on the road by 8:30 pm!

I pulled into the parking lot and found a spot to park. Quickly walking to the venue doors, I would hear Taylor Hicks talking to the audience. The show was still in progress. I stopped by the merchandise table long enough to find out the main show was still in progress. After circling around the corridor, I found my entrance and took my seat. What a fantastic seat I had – center seat in the third row and about 10 feet from the stage! WHOOO! Unfortunately I had to crawl over a few people and landed in a lap or two, but I made it!

Out came the camera, but in my haste to get inside the venue, I didn’t grab my really good camera! I would later regret that, and when you see my pictures, you’ll understand! The place is packed and I see very few empty seats. It’s a diverse crowd with men, women and children of all ages. A few are dancing at their seats, but most are sitting since this is a theatre.

As I got myself situated, Taylor started into “Wherever I Lay My Hat”. I’m amazed at the energy and vibe that Taylor is giving off tonight. This was a man who seemed to have lost the weight of the world and on the stage giving us everything he had and then some. It was a side of Taylor I had rarely seen in a show, that sense of freedom – perhaps to sing what he wanted the way he wanted and how he wanted.

By the time Taylor Hicks rolled into “Heaven Knows” I had tears rolling down my cheeks. I seldom cry at a concert, but tonight got to me. Maybe because I had missed part of the show, maybe it was the energy and vibe. I don’t really know. But I tell you, it was something very special I was witnessing. Kind of like a baptism or water immersion. And to think I almost missed it! Since I was going to be late and possibly see only the last couple of songs or encore only, I had considered just going straight to the hotel. I’m so glad I didn’t!

“The Maze” was brilliant! There were a number of new tags incorporated, and I didn’t recognize them. Something about “Soldier of Fortune” and then it happened. “Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself”. I knew then I was right in the vibe I was picking up. This was a special night – for us, definitely, for Taylor, I don’t know what it could have been. But those few words said a lot!

I remember hearing that Taylor was supposed to have recorded a song at the Ray Charles Studio, but time ran out before he got to. He told us he would get to when he recorded his next album. Alright! The song, “The Right Place” was supposed to have been recorded there, and when I think about the fact that the song was actually written for Ray Charles, I can’t help but get chills! Here was Taylor Hicks with his take on this beautiful song!

But first he had to play with the audience. A bit of starting the song and waiting for us to sing along….If it’s lovin’ that you want’! Come on, Taylor, it’s your voice we really want to hear!

The set ended with “The Runaround”. Another interesting tag, some “MoJo Working” found its way into the song. The energy was still high. I think it was during this song that a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 or 7 was kneeling on the stage. Someone lifted her up and Taylor took her hand and danced with her! What a thrill that was for that child! And the look of joy on both the child’s and Taylor’s faces said they were having a ball!

It was a two song encore tonight: “Take the Long Way Home” and “Soul Thing”. The harp in the first of the two songs was outstanding! Even though I had heard it before, it was like hearing for the first time. The tone and wail of the harp was haunting and chilling. I actually expected Taylor to walk off the stage just playing his harp.

Often “East Bound and Down” gets tagged into “Soul Thing”, and tonight was no different. Well, maybe a little. Taylor Hicks, the rapper, was rapping out the words and I had to listen very closely to realize what he was actually singing! What a versatile entertainer Taylor really is! Between the dance moves, the twirling, the flying shirt tail and the harp, tonight was a show like none other!

I told a friend that the blog for this show would have some things I don’t usually express even if I see or feel it. But tonight, it was as if Taylor was making love to the entire audience, and when it was over, we all needed that afterglow cigarette! The show was wonderful, that’s the best I can say. Was it the best I had ever seen? I can’t say for sure. But the energy and vibe was definitely different. Taylor Hicks seemed like a man who was exactly where he wanted to be with his career, doing exactly what he wanted to be doing. He appeared happy and that happiness transcended into the energy of the show. I don’t know what was going on inside his head, but whatever it was, I hope it sticks around and I get to see another show like I just saw, and feel what I just felt.

With Pompano Beach tomorrow night, I can only hope Taylor gets some much needed rest, and me, too, for that matter! I’ll catch up you then as the Traveling Circus moves down the Florida coast to take on another night with the incredible Taylor Hicks!

Pictures from Clearwater

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Traveling Circus Ferries to Staten Island

After two weeks of not seeing a Taylor Hicks concert and just barely recovered from my Southern mini-tour of casinos (including four Taylor shows!), I am ready to head to Staten Island to see Taylor perform on the stage of the St. George Theatre. I’ve been warned that I may have to take the ferry from the airport to Staten Island, so I put some motion sickness patches in my purse earlier in the week just to be safe. Certain shades of “green” just don’t look good on me, and being on water does terrible things to my stomach and equilibrium! On the plus side, I was going to leave 103 degree weather behind for the brisk 75 degrees of New York. The downside – I left my sweater at home and I would later wish I had it with me! It was cold there!

Since I’m meeting a friend for the concert, flying into Newark was going to be best. Actually, I like flying into Newark – it’s smaller and very efficient! SuperShuttle picks up from that airport and will deliver you anywhere in the area, but for a price! So we decided I would save the shuttle fees and be picked up in a little red VW beetle instead! Wait! I traded a bumpy riding shuttle for a red bug? Good one!

After I’m safely tucked into the little red bug, we take off for our hotel. My friend got directions from MapQuest, so we were golden – right! Two toll booths and $6.65 later, not to mention time and miles, we found our hotel! What an adventure we just thought we had but were really about to begin!

As we got settled in, I checked email and the boards to see what was going on. We decided it might be a good idea to go find the theatre before we actually went to the show, and maybe grab some food. Good idea! Right! Remember the little red bug? Luckily it didn’t get squashed, but only because God watches over fools and little children, and people in those little bugs! All jokes aside, this little car was great – the ride was smooth, seats were comfy, and my chauffer was a very good driver!

We get in the car and take off. With our maps in hand, my friend driving and me navigating (big mistake! Me navigating, that is!), we take off for the big metropolis of Staten Island. Actually it was more like trying to navigate the streets of San Francisco with the hills and narrow car paths and one-way streets. A city block could be one house or 4 houses wide with a light on every corner!

Everything was going fine until we realized we didn’t have a clue as to where we were and that reading street signs was going to be complicated! As I read the signs, I noticed a car stopped at the light and thought that was odd….until I realized we had just run the light! Oops! Thank goodness the only witness was the other driver and me!

I kept trying to read the map and directions, and we were wondering where on earth we were going. Another light, oops, we did it again! Keep in mind there was almost a light at every corner, and some corners were around a curve where you couldn’t see it until you were under it and it was too late!

By now we’re getting closer to the venue but we’re in the wrong lane. Never fear, the red bug is here! We just cut across the lanes and make our turn! A couple more of these maneuvers and we would be in front of the theatre! By the time we got there, we saw a few familiar faces and the crew bus and trailer. Not seeing a lot of places to park, we circle the block to see what was available and then left to find an ATM machine.

That’s another whole story! We had to drive quite a few blocks before we even found a bank! I spot the ATM machine and we park. I grab my card, hop out of the car and open the door between me and the machine. Only the door is locked. There was a strange slot next to the door – like you put in a key card – but not being from the area, I wasn’t going to chance it. That slot gave new meaning to using a credit card to open a door! I got back in the car and we took off to look for another ATM.

A couple more blocks and there it was. We had to figure out how to get in the bank parking lot and then get close to the door. As I got to the door, I could see people inside the vestibule in front of the machines but the door was locked! While I read the writing on the wall, someone opened the door to leave, and I just walked right on in! The machine was much easier to use! I got my cash and left!

Now I usually get money before I ever leave home. Like MasterCard, I never leave home without it. This whole trip was poorly planned – I didn’t even get a ticket for Toms River the next night or for the show the night before! I generally try to do two shows at least, but not this particular trip. Where was my mind when I did this! While walking to my gate to catch my flight to Newark, I realized I hadn’t stopped by the bank on Friday afternoon or on my way to the airport! Not a smart move since I only had small change in my wallet!

The next bright idea we had was to go back to the hotel and rest. Good idea, you might think. No! We got lost going back. We circled everywhere before we were able to figure out where we were. Nearly an hour later, we found the hotel! And it was only 15-20 minutes away!

With that experience under our belts, we decided to just get our tickets and cameras and go find a place to have dinner. Bright idea, wrong move! But we were good to go, Madge was going to ride shotgun! Only thing is, her master hasn’t gotten the hang of it yet in using her to find restaurants! We knew we had passed Applebee’s and Chili’s on the way to the hotel, so what the heck, we would find them again! Wrong!

We asked Madge for the shortest route to the theatre. Too bad there isn’t a setting out there to say shortest SAFEST distance to get there. Madge had us take the route near the water on the New York City side of the island, and for two women in a bug, probably not the smartest thing we could have done! After a few miles of the trip, we decided we would not go back the same way after the concert.

By the time we found the venue, Taylor’s bus was there. We took off to look for Chili’s but it had moved. We were sure it was near the banks we’d been to earlier, but it wasn’t. We drove around a bit and then decided it would have to be KFC/Taco Bell. Nothing special there – they’re all the same! The best part, though, was laughing about the stop lights and wrong lane turns!

Going back to the venue was much easier. We passed a great curb parking spot and circled the block to try to get it again. Too late – someone else had the same idea! So we drove past a couple more cars and slid in behind one of those big SUVs. Our little red bug is a stick-shift, and since we parked on a declining hill, when the driver tried to back up, the car only inched closer to the big SUV. Forget it, we just stayed there! A few quarters were fed to the meter and we headed to cross the street near the buses.

Since there were a number of familiar faces, we decided to mingle around the buses and put names with those faces. It was nice to finally meet some of the ladies whose names I knew quite well and recognized – you know who you are! Since it was getting close to the time the doors were to open, we went on up to the first lobby and waited.

When the doors opened, the head of security made the most awful announcement – no photography or video of any type was allowed! Now how was I going to capture some great moments for you, gentle readers, to have for the saving? It just wasn’t going to happen tonight. I was going to just have to make the most of the experience and capture the memories in my head and just dance my bootie to the music and clap my hands to the beat. I’d make the sacrifice, but I didn’t like it!

We were shown our seats on opposite ends of the front row! Far corners, in front of the big speakers! We just kept saying to ourselves – front row, front row, front row! Like if you clicked your heels three times, you would awaken to find yourself safely tucked in the center seat of the front row! In the end, these turned out to be good seats because you could stand beside the speakers and watch without blocking anyone behind you!

A local group, Alternate Routes, was the opening band. I think they said this was their first time to do their show acoustically and that they put the show together only a few minutes earlier in their dressing room. Actually, they should perform this way more often, because those four guitars were fabulous, and even blended or harmonized if you know what I mean! Since they write their material, it’s hard to tell you what they sang, but this band was definitely one of the best opening acts Taylor has used!

After a brief intermission, it was show time! The curtains parted to show the band. Not much of an opening montage tonight and when the spot light came on, there was Taylor Hicks in the center, guitar in place, getting right into “Gonna Move”. He was wearing a blue shirt with his jeans and usual sneakers. His hair was a bit longer than usual, and combed into his face. There was a gentle part that had some of the hair going in different direction. At any rate, Taylor looked great and was definitely ready to entertain us!

There were lots of shout outs to Staten Island and the Soul Patrol! Taylor even asked if it was pronounced Staten (stat’en with a short ‘a’) or Staten (stat’ in with a long ‘a’) and that Staten (stat’en with a short ‘a’) won!

“Give Me Tonight” followed. Since I couldn’t take pictures, I stood up and moved to the music, at least until everyone on my side of the theatre sat down. I was on the right side tonight – we were doing a lot of standing and dancing! “Just to Feel That Way” had my side sitting by now. There were a lot of men and children tonight, but the audience appeared to have more women. The ages were varied as well – I saw one couple that was definitely older there and the female of the pair was certainly into the music!

Taylor Hicks changed the pace of the show by performing some of his own original pre-Idol music. “Heart and Soul” and “My Friend” were next. Talk about that crazy friend – I’ve decided I’m one of those crazy people with all the traveling I do! But it’s all fun, and I’m so glad I’m able to do it!

Time for Taylor to get funky. Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown” was next. Somewhere in the song, Taylor tagged “All skate” and proceeded to act like he was skating! Glad his feet were firmly planted on the stage – he might have skated off with just a few strides! Taylor was having fun on stage and it was showing that he was enjoying what he was doing. Right on down to those Woody Woodpecker cackles!

As “Compared to What” started, it’s was obvious that he was having trouble with his headset. Not missing a beat, he ripped it out the neck of his shirt and laid it in the harmonica case. Chris grabbed it and later put it back in the same place. Taylor picked it up and while the band played an instrumental section, retreated to the side of the stage and put the repaired headset back on.

Taylor Hicks announced that he would do “Don’t Let Me Down” by request. I enjoy Taylor’s version of the song and I’m glad he resurrected from last summer’s AI tour! Time for more Taylor Hicks originals with “The Deal” and “Soul Thing”. There wasn’t a lot of tagging other songs into the set tonight, but “Eastbound and Down” made its way into “Soul Thing”.

The main set was finished up with “Heaven Knows”, “The Maze” and “The Runaround” from the major debut album “Taylor Hicks”. We had been entertained with Taylor’s version of dirty dancing, hip swaying and gyrating, and restless leg movements the entire evening. He hadn’t stopped except to fix his headset earlier in the show. That blue shirt was soaked and the sweat was standing in puddles!

As the set ended, Taylor played with Loren as Loren shouted out “Taylor Hicks” three or four times. Finally Taylor left the stage; the band finished and then left as well. After a couple of long minutes, everyone returned to the stage and the encore, “Take the Long Way Home” began. Lots of great harp! When it ended, Taylor again encouraged Loren to shout out his name several times. Before finally leaving the stage, Taylor made a gesture like he’s about to hit a golf ball! Such a lovable goof on stage! But then, that’s why we love to watch Taylor perform – to see what he will do that sucks us in all over again!

With the show over, my friend and I catch up and head to the merchandise table where we greet more friends and acquaintances. We decided to make a quick trip to the ladies’ room before heading out to stand by the buses. When we get outside, Taylor was already outside signing for those closest to the front. Being short, all I can see is his cap and Bill’s flashlight. Once Taylor was on the bus, we said goodnight to those close by and headed to our car.

Fortunately, the SUV in front us was gone so if the red bug rolled, we wouldn’t be flattened into that SUV! I plugged in Madge and told her to take us to our hotel, this time using the freeways. With that, we were on our way. As we get closer to our hotel, though, we missed our turn, and found instead a Charlie Brown Steakhouse. We decided to grab something to eat – rootbeer floats and shrimp (I had the shrimp) – before actually going back to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel, I checked out the boards to see if anything had made the internet about the show. Maybe an hour or so later, we tucked ourselves into bed. Those beds had down comforters and pillow-top mattresses, so good sleeping was going to be had tonight! I think I woke up once during the night, and then not again until we got our 10:30 wake-up call! Before going to sleep, we made a pact that if any noises or moans were heard during the night, it was brought on by the comfy bed rather than dreams of Mr. Taylor Hicks

My friend was going to take me back to the airport before she drove to Toms River. Saying bye to friends isn’t always easy, especially when we’ve had a great time, so we promised to meet again soon and catch another Taylor show together! This friend is my daughter’s age, and so everyone thought she was safe with me! Little do they know! At least I haven’t gotten into any scrapes or skirmishes, or anything like that! But I love to have a good time, and the fun comes so naturally without requiring that I find trouble or that it find me! Come travel with me sometime, and we will have a great time!

Photos: Due to rules of the house, there are no pictures of this event. Don’t blame me; complain to the establishment!

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Traveling Circus Does the Crawfish Crawl to New Orleans

Most of us woke up wondering where the night had gone or whatever possessed us to stay out until dawn or why did I have to play so many slot & poker machines! I’m guilty as charged on probably all three counts. The last three nights with this band of escape artists has been a lot of fun, and tonight in New Orleans promises to only be better! We’re all quite tired from our late night outings so the best we can do is to crawl, or drive real fast and hope our eyelids don’t close, as we drive to our final show of the week-end.

I think some have dubbed this week-end “the hot and humid tour”! The sun was bright and hot as we loaded up the vehicles. And with all the water around us, humidity was guaranteed! For everyone’s driving pleasure and sanity, the smokers piled into the SUV while the nonsmokers piled into the van. I’m sure when the SUV arrived at the Marriott in New Orleans it looked like a bunch of circus clowns climbing out of a Volkswagen because more ladies smoked than didn’t! Besides the van and SUV, we had two cars just in case extra room was needed.

Madge decided she wanted to ride shotgun, so she took the center console in the front seat. We had a good idea as to how to get to New Orleans, but just in case, Madge might prove helpful if needed. She won lots of praise for helping us find the New Orleans International Airport, because the van driver was leaving us before the show! So my group headed for the airport as the other vehicles made their way to the hotel. Well, I should say, my group got out at the car rental and then took a shuttle to the airport to get a cab to the hotel. We had a nice overview tour of the city this way!

As we drove into New Orleans we could still see a lot of destruction from Hurricane Katrina nearly two years ago. The homes that were habitable were few and far between where we were. A few businesses had come back but most of the area was still in need of either repair or demolition. It was really a very sad sight to see. Some of the houses still had the search marks on the front. It’s hard to comprehend the massive destruction without actually seeing it. And this was 2 years later!

After checking into the hotel, a few in our group decided to head to Harrah’s for some games of chance (a.k.a., lose some change) while others decided to forage for lunch or rest. I was in the rest group. I was also hungry, but also too tired to go look for a place to eat! I decided to wait until closer to 5:30 to leave the hotel to go to the House of Blues to pick up my laminate that I won because of the pre-sale at Taylor Hicks Headquarters. When I got there, the lucky winners of a meet & greet were lining up and just starting to go in. I enjoyed watching the expressions as they entered the room and then returned after seeing Taylor up close and personal!

Those of us who can eat fish met at the hotel so we would go to Acme Seafood for dinner. I love fried crawfish tails so a crawfish po’ boy was in order for my dinner! The food was very good, and most would need to walk to the House of Blues just to be able to stand for the concert! Me, I took a cab! Why walk when you can ride! Before you think I’m just plain lazy, it was very hot and heat and I don’t mix, much less walking long distances or standing for long periods of time. Survival won – I took the cab!
By the time we got to House of Blues it was just about time for the opening act – a big bass and guitar by some group whose name escapes me and whose act lasted way too long. Even though they were only on stage for 30 minutes or so, their performance was still way too long – not my kind of music – bluegrass and Cajun perhaps. Less said the better.

Finally the band takes the stage and does their opening montage and Loren Gold shouts out “TAYLOR HICKS”! Taylor takes the stage saying “New Orleans is back!” The opening song is “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”. No sign of illness in this number! The crowd is packed into the front of the stage all the way to the back wall where I’m perched on a stool. I won’t get to see much through the bobbing heads, but listening to the concert will provide a new and wonderful experience!

“Heaven Knows” follows. The crowd is moving about and dancing in place. People are jockeying for better viewing positions. I’m just sitting and listening. The mix is about even between the genders and the ages range from 21 to well over 60! And I’m somewhere in between. Ok, closer to 60 than 21, but I’m still under the high age! I know, the white hair is hard to hide! Just look at the skin tone, please!

Next is “Just to Feel That Way”. I’m starting to get a bit jealous because I can’t really see or take pictures. The sign at the door said no cameras, and mine is safely tucked in the camera bag on the floor. However, I see lots of flashes going off and security trying to stop the cameras. One lady, after being warned several times, was physically removed from the floor and taken out the door. Don’t flash and you won’t get stopped seemed to be the motto.

“Compared to What” made an appearance tonight. I don’t recall if there was any cowbell, but if there was, this was the song to play it! I continued to listen and watch the crowd, noticing that people were still moving around, and the back crowd was moving forward to mesh with the front group.

Then it happens. Taylor sings “Somehow”. Listening rather than watching has paid off when I’m able to hear the new variations in the song. My word, I’m hoping someone is getting this on video – the melody is beautiful and the changes just added to its charm. No words can describe what I was hearing, but I was falling in love with the song all over again. And yes, there is video out there, bless that courageous soul!

“The Maze”, “My Friend”, “The Right Place” and “Medicated Goo” follow “Somehow”. I listen intently for other changes in the songs. With “The Right Place”, I know being in New Orleans is right, because the energy is so high and hot that Taylor’s gray shirt is drenched again tonight. Taylor made the right decision when he decided to shed the jackets for the summer tour, except maybe when he’s performing in a theatre setting. Aside for that, I think the fans love the tee shirts and relaxed look! I continue to shake my head in disbelief as I try to see what’s going on in front of me. Some dancing Taylor, a little Al boogie and a lot of harp, sax and Josh on guitar! It’s a real good listen, and my ears are perked to catch it all!

The first set of songs wind up with “Hold On to Your Love”, “Gonna Move”, “Use Me”, and “The Runaround”. I don’t recall having heard the entire “Use Me” before. Perhaps in some tags, but that was it. The crowd had stopped moving about so much, and couples are standing behind one another with the men’s arms around the ladies. What a sight! (And I’m all alone!) When “The Runaround” was over, Taylor said his good-byes and left the stage for the band to finish up the song. Then the band left.

People start to leave and I want to stop them, but heck, if they leave, maybe I can see better! So I selfishly let them leave. Taylor comes back out alone for the encore. He’s changed from the wet gray shirt to a brown short sleeve tee shirt. The stool of soul, I think came out (remember I can’t see that much!), his acoustic guitar and harmonica strapped around his neck. Would we get to hear “Louisiana” like he did a few concerts ago? YES! We are getting to hear Taylor Hicks perform “Louisiana 1927” as an acoustic solo! It was incredible! And yes, there’s video out there somewhere! Bless you! Bless you!

When Taylor finished, the band came back out and they did “Soul Thing”, an original from Taylor’s pre-Idol days! Now Taylor is wearing a black tee shirt that says “I Speak Jive” on the front that a fan had requested. This is the most wardrobe changes I’ve seen! And to get a second encore song with the band! When the song was over, Taylor left the stage telling the Soul Patrol he’d see us later!

As the crowd was leaving, a couple that had been standing next to me before the show started stopped by to tell me how much they enjoyed the show, and that I was right, one show was not enough! They had been Taylor Hicks fans during the American Idol show, voting numerous times to see that Taylor continued on each week. I had told them not expect anything like they saw on the TV show – they would see a much better Taylor on the House of Blues stage. And Taylor did not disappoint!

As the House of Blues emptied, our troupe found its way outside and near the buses. Several were on the sidewalk in front of Taylor’s bus, a few across the street, and me, I was in the middle of the street next to the trailer rails. As we talked among ourselves, we saw Bill and Taylor jump on the bus with the help of the bus driver. The area between the door and bus was maybe 4-5 feet at best, or the width of the sidewalk. The bus driver seemed to pull Taylor on the bus as Bill pushed him. The crowd was thick on the sidewalk side of the bus, and may have moved towards the rail in front of them. It was hard to tell. Taylor went inside the main part of the bus, and a door closed behind him. So much for coming out by the buses!

As we continued to chat, a loud horn was blasted a couple of times. I think I jumped three feet off the ground! When we turned around toward the bus, there was Taylor wearing a red Stax tee shirt waving to us and grinning a very big grin! Before he went back inside the main part of the bus, he blew the horn again, and Bill closed the door behind them! A little time later the bus pulled away and the band was gone!

So what do we do on a hot, steamy New Orleans night after one of the best concerts any of us had ever attended? We took off looking for Café Dumond and frozen café au lait! Oh what a nice cold, sweet treat!

After we finished our drinks, we headed back towards the hotel via cab. We dropped off a few people there and the rest of us headed for Harrah’s. We decided to play for an hour and then head back to the hotel for some sleep. Some of us had early flights while the rest of us had to drive several hundred miles home.

I think we got back to the hotel around 2:30 am, and my roomie and I chatted until after 4:00 about how great the show was, what we lost and won and lost again, how much fun we’d had, how nice it was to be with friends, and how little sleep we’d had over the past couple of nights! Since we rode together in my roomie’s SUV, we’d be driving home the next day. Or in a few short hours since it was now Sunday morning!

We finally got up around 9:30 or so and got ready to head home. We were going to go back to Acme for a quick lunch and then tour the 9th Ward and Garden District since I’d only been to New Orleans only one other time and that was in February for the Endymion Ball. I didn’t get to get to see many sights then because of where we stayed on the outskirts of the Garden District and Mardi Gras going on.

After several hours of driving around we stopped back by Café Dumond for another round of frozen café au laits and regular coffee. How was I going to handle not getting another one of those wonderful frozen coffees when I got back home? I would need another trip to New Orleans!

We talked the entire way home about our fantastic week-end and how great the concerts were! Three nights in a row, Taylor on medications for strep and bronchitis, and the shows just kept getting better! Not that I wish Taylor ill, but when he’s sick, his shows don’t show it and his performance is always outstanding! I know; I just attended four consecutive shows. Forget the first Vicksburg show! The last three were phenomenal! Fantastic! High energy! Hot! The best three shows I’ve seen all summer, and may the entire year that Taylor’s been on his solo tour!

By the time we pulled into the driveway at my roomie’s home, it was rather later. My daughter and granddaughters came over to pick me up and take me home. I was tired, yes, but also wired. I had had a great week-end and was ready to get some rest, do a load of laundry, and get to bed. What to do first! I knew I had 2 weeks before my next trip, so there was plenty of time to catch up. But as I write this recap nearly 10 days later, I’ve discovered I’ve just barely recovered! Hopefully by the time I get to Staten Island, NY, I will have recovered fully so I can enjoy that week-end with another group of friends! Catch you later after that show!

Due to strict camera policy and where I was sitting, there are no pictures from the New Orleans’ House of Blues!

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Traveling Circus Boogies to Biloxi

Friday morning made me want to sing “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day…” The sun was out, the temperature was hot, and we were checking out to head on over to Biloxi for our third show of the week-end. We loaded up the vans, cars and SUVs and headed out towards Jackson. Two vehicles were going to travel together, another had left quite early, and the fourth was going to do its own thing. No one really trusted Madge to get us there, but the vehicle I was in decided to see what she might do. Madge has no comment on how well she did or didn’t do!

As we drove into Biloxi, we were able to see much of the devastation left from Katrina. Lots of foundation slabs and a few buildings still needing to be torn down were visible. The ocean was just across the street from the main highway. It’s hard to understand how something as beautiful as the ocean can be so destructive when a hurricane strikes. We found our hotel, which was across from the beach, and checked in.

We didn’t have a lot of time because several in our group had meet & greets and needed to get to the coliseum. Others were going to try their hand at luck at the Beau Rivage Casino that had just been rebuilt after Katrina destroyed the original. Others would just plain rest. I decided to head to the Coliseum and wait for the show.

Security was tight around the doors but also quite compassionate. The young man at the door where I waited knew it was very hot outside so he propped open the door to let out some of the cooler air. He told us his mother couldn’t take the heat either, and knew this would help us older ladies standing outside. Another door was soon opened by one of the ticket checkers, so waiting outside wasn’t too bad.

At 7:00 the doors were opened. I made my way to the merchandise table to wait for the person buying my extra ticket for tonight’s show. After we made our exchange, I just had to get one of the new purple tour shirts with the dates on the back!

I found my seat, or what I thought was my seat. As I patiently waited, several of us chatted about prior shows and watched the front rows talk to a special guest in the audience – Ms. Joni, Taylor’s grandmother. She was so graceful and elegant, and talked to anyone who stopped by to speak to her. And if you asked politely, you could get your picture taken with her! It was easy to see where Taylor gets his good looks and charm!

In the mean time, the people who had the seats where I sat come over with a Coliseum helper. Oops! I was in the right seat but the wrong section! I apologized, got up and moved to the opposite side of the floor. When I sat down, I found myself with people I knew from other concerts so we chatted about the state of Taylor’s health.

I was commenting on the fact that despite strep and bronchitis, Taylor had put on one heck of show the night before. The man in front of me heard the part about strep and turned around and wanted to know if I had strep. Not one of my quick wit moments, I told him it was Taylor who had strep. When he turned back around, I thought of all sorts of comebacks for his comment, but refrained from using them. We had a good laugh over what I did do, and if you weren’t there to witness it, remember, I’m a lady (cough, cough) and what I did was very lady-like (NOT!).

Michael Warren, another Birmingham native, was the opening act. This time he had Brandon White on guitar as his backup for the show. Michael is very good, and does a lot of his own material. He had opened for several of the spring tour concerts, and I must confess he was my favorite opening act. Michael has a very soft soulful voice, and can keep the audience fixed on him and listening. You have to check him out when you get the chance.

After a 20-minute intermission, it was time for Taylor Hicks. We were ready, or at least I was! And maybe Ms. Joni! With the introduction from Loren Gold, Taylor Hicks took the stage shouting hello to Biloxi and moved right into “Soul Thing”. I remember turning around to see Ms. Joni’s reaction, and there she was standing up, beaming and smiling from ear to ear, and swaying to the music. She was one proud grandma – someone later said the expression on her face was like a mother looking at her new born child for the first time. I would have to agree. Her reaction was beautiful and wonderful to see.

Next came “Heart and Soul”, a pre-Idol composed song by Taylor Hicks. Before the song was over, he waved to his grandmother, and the look on Taylor’s face was one of joy to see her there enjoying herself! I’m sure after seeing her at all those bars when only a handful of other people were there, Biloxi was a welcomed change to have a nearly full house watching this talented young man.

Speaking of a nearly full house! The Coliseum only used about half to a third of its available space for this show. The only empty seats I saw were in the riser area behind the floor seats. The crowd was a diverse mix of men, women and children of all ages. A number of families were there as well. And I spoke to or saw a number of Soul Patrol from several different boards as well as fans I don’t see very often at shows because of the expense and distance to travel. All was good tonight!

Well, all was good if you wanted to sit and enjoy the show! Security came back and did their version of the wave to make everyone sit down! Thank goodness! I like to take pictures and dance in my chair anyway. Soon “Just to Feel That Way” started. I find for myself that I prefer to hear this song in a live performance because it better shows Taylor’s versatility.

Someone in the front few rows in the other section had a sign that read “I love fried chicken”, and when Taylor saw it, he said he loved fried chicken too! The audience laughed but not everyone understood the comment. After a bit of detective work and questioning a few witnesses, the reason was soon discovered. Lucky lady who got noticed!

Next came “My Friend, “Wherever I Lay My Hat” and “Medicated Goo”. By now Taylor’s shirt is drenched. Before the first set was over we would be able to see the sweat ripple down the back of his shirt. Be it fever or hot lights, he was putting out the fires in our hearts with his perspiration! That charcoal gray shirt was going to need the laundry when the night was over! And whatever meds Taylor was taking for his strep and bronchitis was working – he was putting on one heck of a show and it was rivaling his performance in Vicksburg the night before!

There’s lots of harp, guitar and sax throughout the night. Dueling guitars and harp between Josh and Taylor even. It was hard to keep straight who was doing what! But it was hot, hawt, hot, hawt and fabulous! The energy was high and kept getting higher. The crowd was enjoying the show, and Taylor was enjoying being back in the South.

Next came “Don’t Let Me Down”, “The Deal”, “Naked in the Jungle” and “Gonna Move”. The audience wants to stand and dance, and some do, but my section was definitely into sitting. Maybe we were too mesmerized to do anything else! I kept taking pictures and trying to capture Taylor’s mood and expressions!

“Heaven Knows” came with a bonus tonight. As Taylor was singing “Heaven knows I tried”, he moves over towards Josh and begins to do his boogie dance with knees bent and derriere out. He continues until I think the crowd will erupt and then he turns around and heads toward Al. Lo and behold, Taylor does the limbo right under Al’s guitar arm! Oh my word, what a dancing treat we just had! I think there’s some video out there so go check it out! It was wild!

By now it’s time for “The Maze”, “The Right Place” and “The Runaround”. With “The Right Place”, Taylor lets us know that Biloxi is definitely the right place to be tonight! He is giving us everything he has and then some! The band is tight tonight. The sweat is beading everywhere, and Taylor’s shirt is soaked from the shoulders to the waist. It’s so funny to see the bottom part of the shirt dry with the top part so wet it’s sticking to his back! I don’t know how Taylor does it, much less stands it! I guess it really is a great exfoliate for him so he continues to sweat and dance for our enjoyment!

More harp gets injected into the performance. The last two nights have been fantastic and the amount of harp has been staggering. I’m sure it helps bring relief for the bronchitis, besides the fact that Taylor plays one mean instrument. I can only grin like there’s no tomorrow and shake my head in disbelief and enjoyment. Suck and blow, Taylor, suck and blow!

Taylor shouts out to the Soul Patrol and takes his leave from the stage. We are all used to an encore, and shout for Taylor to return. We aren’t disappointed. The show ends with “Long Train Running” and “Without Love”. What a performance! And what a proud grandmother – Ms. Joni was still smiling proudly and standing and dancing! Tonight was definitely one of the best shows of the summer tour, and I was there to witness it!

When the show was over, my group made our way outside to meet up so we could figure out what to do next. Dinner, Beau Rivage, or the hotel. Some went by the buses while others watched their ride drive away. I had to track down my ride who didn’t realized I was planning to ride with her! Anyway, we decided that one car would head for the casino and the other would go back to the hotel to drop off people, cameras and other items before heading for the casino.

My group was ready for dinner so we found the late night buffet and proceeded to get our fill of good Biloxi food. We spent the next hour just talking about the show and how wonderful it was. We were still in shock from spending the last hour listening to one of the best shows and facing that we had only one more night together in our group.

After we had eaten, we walked around the casino and tried a few machines. I dropped a few coins and then decided I really needed to head back to the hotel for some much needed sleep. The other ladies I was with were in agreement so we headed back to our rooms. I don’t think I was awake for long after my head hit the pillow. When my room mate returned several hours later, I don’t know if I even stirred. Keep in mind we were all keeping very late hours, some later than others, or maybe I should say some came in with day break while others were sleeping through it!

Our energy may be starting to wane at this point, but our love for Taylor Hicks was still high, and spending time with friends was the best part of the week-end adventure. As I would soon come to learn, four nights with Taylor is one night too much for me at my age, but three is just right! The white hair ain’t white for no reason! Yep, I’m starting to feel my age this week-end!

Daylight would come soon enough, too soon for most of us, and it would be time to head to New Orleans. The adventure would continue, and only get better, something that even this troupe of circus clowns would find hard to imagine. By noon we had boarded our human cannons to get us to New Orleans on time. Stay tuned, folks, the traveling circus will do the crawfish crawl to New Orleans in a few days!

Biloxi pictures

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Traveling Circus Wins the Battle at Vicksburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Some of My Favorite Pictures