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

Monday, January 26, 2009

Taylor Hicks - From Chi-town to Cincy

From the time Taylor Hicks announced he was joining the touring cast of “Grease” and the gradual release of ‘shadow tour dates’, I repeatedly told myself I was only going to go to Tucson with friends to see the show. Honest! I was only going to see “Grease” in Tucson. But as the shadow tour dates were announced, I felt something was missing, and finally the nudge I needed happened!

From fans at meet and greets to MySpace announcements, there would be a complete media blackout of video, pictures and cellcerts at these performances. New music from the soon-to-be-released “The Distance” would be introduced. Taylor wanted to keep secrecy surrounding this release to enhance the hype and asked the Soul Patrol to honor his request. If I wanted to know the scoop, I would just have to be there to find out, camera left in the cold!

Just the week before Martyrs’, everything began falling into place. Frequent flyer miles were sufficient to purchase a free ticket. A hotel near Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre was found. Next to Ticketmaster for a tickets to Martyrs’ and “Grease”. In hopes that perhaps Taylor Hicks would perform his new single or another song during the play, I purchased tickets for both the matinee and evening performances. After all, this was my birthday present to me, and on my birthday no less!

The touring version of “Grease” is much like the Broadway version, with a few noticeable changes. Doody’s scene where he dreams of being a recording sensation has a few changes that really improve the scene. And the ice cream cone looks more like a sundae that fits the Teen Angel to a tee! The sequined suit with angel wings is back as well as the harmonica! Taylor plays the part to perfection and receives the greatest applause for his performance! There is additional time for Taylor to be part of the finale which was fun to watch – be sure to catch Taylor in the finale’s reprisal of “Greased Lightnin’”! To get to Martyrs’ to get a decent place to plant my feet, I left the play before it was over.

Martyrs’ is a dark bar in a residential area somewhere out from the Chicago city lights. As I walked in the door after 10:00 pm, the ticket taker informed me of the ‘No Media’ policy for the evening. That was fine with me – I was there for the experience! Finally at 11:20 pm, Taylor and company took the stage. Old familiars, Josh Smith and Brian Gallagher, joined Taylor on stage. Additional musicians were Kenny Crouch, a phenomenal keyboardist, and memory fails me as to the drummer and bass guitarist.

As Taylor Hicks performed the evening’s lineup, my head bobbed about to get a better look between the bodies standing in front of me. I was sitting down about half way back to the right side of the stage. What I saw was a very happy and excited Taylor doing what he enjoys most: performing good music and entertaining those in his presence!

The set list included songs from the 2007 tour and “Taylor Hicks”, the post-American Idol album. Finally it was time for some new music from “The Distance” which is scheduled to be released March 10. The first single, “What’s Right is Right” was performed with little introduction. Amazon has the song for release on January 27. What a perfect song for Taylor’s voice! Like a home run, he knocked it out of the park! I can’t wait for the song’s release and radio airplay!

Later the announcement of a Bobby Womack song, “Woman’s Gotta Have It” signaled another song from the forthcoming “The Distance”. WOW! This was an incredible song and I wanted to hear it again! After a few more numbers including an encore, Taylor left the stage and moved into a safer zone to revel in a successful evening! At least I was going to leave satisfied. What a wonderful birthday I had had!

As a matter of fact, it was such a good week-end, even going to Chi-town by myself, that I came home, fired up the laptop and made arrangements for tickets to Cincy and more “Grease” and then a night cap at the 20th Century Theatre.

This time, I made it to the theatre before the doors opened and was able to grab a seat on the second row! A local musician, Kevin Fox, was the opening act. I enjoyed him – his repertoire included songs that told stories and were full of humor. Some were so true to life you had to be there to get the full flavor and enjoyment of his music. Just a man with his guitar and some taped music needed for accompaniment.

Shortly after 11:00 pm, Taylor Hicks bounded the steps to give us everything he had to give! Full of energy and excitement, Taylor didn’t stop moving, dancing, playing guitar, shaking the tambourine or shaker, and giving his famous harmonica its due! Tonight, we would have three songs from the new album: “What’s Right is Right”, my wish granted to hear “Woman’s Gotta Have It” again, and an old Ray Charles song, “Hide Nor Hair”.

“Hide Nor Hair” was incredible! I want to hear it again – it continues to rumble through my head even now. Should a second single be released, this is the song I pray for! All three songs from “The Distance” were performed to perfection! Did I mention the band seemed tight to me, as if they had been playing together for weeks!

Once the show including encore was over, we rushed outside to the lobby to see if Taylor was come back to sign autographs like he did at Martrys’ the week before. We weren’t disappointed. Taylor signed a few autographs, chatted a minute or two and was gone as quickly as he came. The glow on his face was one of satisfaction with a job well done, and this fan is now looking forward to Rams Head in a couple of weeks!

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