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

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Traveling Circus Takes Over Baltimore

WOW! What a week-end! And I’m still having moments of recurring memories and giggles to go with them! Baltimore will never be the same after this past week-end. No sir or ma’am – the city won’t be the same after the Traveling Circus converged at the Hippodrome Theatre and Rams Head OnStage!

Nice thing about an early flight – I can usually take a nap in route! Good thing I did, because I certainly wasn’t going to get much sleep in Baltimore! After arriving at the Baltimore Airport, I made my way to the auto rental place and picked up my car. With Madge riding shotgun, I finally found the hotel and checked in. No time to do anything but freshen up and head for the city.

Once in downtown Baltimore, I found the Hippodrome Theatre and its attached parking. I made my way inside and then to my seat on the left side of theatre, about ten rows from the stage. Great seat for the show and watching Taylor Hicks descend from the ice cream cone over the malt shop! I’ve seen “Grease” before a few times, and I still find it fresh, even seeing things I hadn’t seen before. Quickly the first half is over and it’s time for intermission. Time to chat with people close to me and a few familiar faces before the second act starts.

Finally the moment the Traveling Circus has waited for – Frenchy is sitting on the table outside the Malt Shop wishing for her Guardian Angel to help her decide what to do! I can only imagine what Taylor Hicks must do while he’s waiting above the stage to open those cone doors! The doors open and the audience goes crazy (at least I think they did!) Taylor sings “Beauty School Dropout” and plays a bit of harmonica before stepping back into the cone to finish his performance and then leave the stage.

After the show is over and curtain call takes place, Taylor has changed to jeans and dark tee shirt with the Teen Angel jacket. When the finale starts, there’s no Taylor and Danny is now singing the “Grease” part that was formerly Taylor’s. When the finale is over, Vince the DJ steps forward and announces Taylor Hicks!

Taylor comes out and sings his new single, “What’s Right is Right” from the soon to be released, “The Distance”. While Taylor sang, the audience was very still and quiet! When Taylor spoke, the applause and cheers were thunderous! And when he started to sing again, the audience was again quiet. After the song was over, there were cheers and applause, and I’m sure a lot of new fans wanting to get their hands on his single and new album!

But the highlight of the evening and week-end would be what was going to happen at Rams Head OnStage in Annapolis! Of course dinner first at Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs which was excellent! Our hostess planned a wonderful buffet for those in attendance and those ribs were terrific!

Rams Head, with its Tavern and concert area, is a very nice venue for an intimate performance with Taylor Hicks. Lots of seating at tables placed close together so that patrons can enjoy drinks and appetizers before and during the show.

The band, Brian Gallagher, Josh Smith, Kenny Crouch, LaMar Carter and Mike Mennel (I think that’s his name), took the stage first around 11:15 pm and after a few measures to whet the musical appetite, Taylor Hicks bounded the ramp to his place on the stage! Without a word, Taylor strapped on his guitar and the band dove into “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”. Taylor was wearing a black jacket with a sheen that made it look like leather or shark skin, jeans and a black tee shirt. Before finishing the first number, “Hey Pokey Way” was thrown in for good measure. Taylor was nothing short of a bundle of perpetual motion – move over Energizer Bunny – you have new competition for going and going and going!

Next was “Soul Thing” with Taylor Hicks on the tambourine. I decided to scan the audience and there were very few empty seats to be seen! A sign on the door indicated the show was a sell out, and I believe it! Some “Blues You Can Use” and “Can’t Trust Your Neighbor” were tagged with the song before coming back and finishing out “Soul Thing”.

Taylor talked about Rams Head as being a nice intimate setting, one of the smallest places he’d played but then he had played smaller! His comments brought some chuckles from the audience, and the Soul Patrol knew the real meaning of his words. If I had to guess, the audience was about a third known Soul Patrol and the rest were probably natives of the area with a good mix of men, women, young and older.

Now we know about ‘chicken pickin’’ and when Taylor is about to introduce it, you never know what you might get! Tonight was a ‘history lesson never learned’ according to Taylor because he wanted to know how close to the ‘Mason Dixon line we were’! As Josh Smith began to play, Taylor Hicks was doing his ‘chicken strut’! Taylor referred to the playing as ‘Chicken Pickin’ 105 not 101’! And then the band went back to more “Soul Thing” and threw in “East Bound and Down” for good measure! The song sure gave the Bandit a run for the money!

Playing the keyboard and causing it to go psycho, Kenny Crouch started the intro to “Give Me Tonight”. Taylor said we were going to ‘party tonight’ and made reference to being ‘a little pitchy!” With a gold shaker in hand, Taylor gave it to us alright! After he finished the number, he put his guitar back on and introduced the next song as ‘one he wrote when he was 45’ called “Heart and Soul”. This version was complete with a guitar duel with Josh Smith!

The next song was introduced as a Bobby Womack song, and “Woman’s Gotta Have It” featured a saxophone solo by Brian Gallagher. The entire time Taylor was performing this song, he was bouncing up and down, full of excitement! This song is destined to be a favorite for the show and until you can actually hear Taylor perform will have no idea how terrific this song is!

Like a true entertainer, Taylor had to start “Heaven Knows” with the call and audience response of “ohs” and “oos”! Lots of funky keyboard sounds and interaction with Kenny Crouch on the keyboard and organ!

Taylor introduced “The Maze” but started with something else I wasn’t familiar with and then went into “The Maze”. “Dirty Lowdown” was added to the song, and perhaps something else I didn’t catch. Then Taylor tried to ‘figure out the rendition’ of the next song but kept tripping over his words and ‘trying to get it out’ before just hitting the guitar and doing “Going Mobile”! Taylor’s fingers were flying, sans pick, over the strings of his guitar! And Kenny had his keyboard was ‘talking’ the entire time! Taylor stopped playing the guitar only long enough to play his trusty harmonica, and his sucking and blowing was so hard and fast that I thought he might actually eat the harmonica! Taylor was so into playing his guitar that at times he was playing it as if it were a machine gun constantly firing rounds of chords!

After each song, Taylor wiped the sweat from his face and turned up a bottle of water, drinking big gulps each time, to keep his throat wet. He had to have gone through several bottles of water and I bet the towel would later need to be ‘wrung out’! As he pulled up his jeans, he remarked that after ‘doing three shows today he was about to lose his jeans!’ Someone in the audience close to the stage made a comment about taking them off and Taylor came back with ‘he wasn’t that desperate yet’!

He introduced the next song as a Ray Charles song and we got “Hide Nor Hair”! For this song, Taylor had his harmonica in his left hand and a shaker in his right. And he even played the harmonica during the song! It’s a catchy tune and I loved it - could easily be another single someday! It’s definitely a great ‘got to hear it live’ song!

Taylor Hicks said ‘he was going to slow it down just a little bit’ and wanted to know if he was ‘wearing us out’! His introduction to “What’s Right is Right”, the new single off the record, included telling us he had worked with Simon Climie by way of France on the song. Taylor frequently placed his hand against his heart. The song was well received by the audience, and it made me proud to see their reaction! Incidentally, after each song, many stood and applauded, most of which was the Soul Patrol. Standing wasn’t allowed during the show and this was their way to show their appreciation to the Soul Man!

Taylor told us we were a great audience and that he appreciated it. Also he thanked us for making the show a sell out, telling us that it means so much to any artist to see that, repeating again that it means so much!

No performance is complete without “The Runaround” and tonight was no different. “Call Me Willie Brown” was tagged into the song. Taylor played his harmonica off Josh’s guitar, and before the number ended, it was a full jam session with the keyboard, drums, guitars and saxophone! Waving bye and saying ‘Thanks’, Taylor left the stage and left us wanting and begging for more!

After five long minutes everyone was back on stage. Taylor was again thanking us for coming and said he’d back soon after doing a West Coast swing. The encore was going to be ‘an old jazz standard from Les McCann, “Compared to What” and Taylor said something about having a fever that only more cowbell could cure! He beat that poor cowbell until it cried for mercy and then he beat it some more! The lights were flashing red and green as Taylor shouted ‘red light’, ‘green light’, and ‘shake ‘em on down!’ Boy, was he shaking us down! With an additional “Good night everybody!” Taylor left the stage for the night, nearly an hour and a half after he started! The band finished the song as if winding down and melting!

“Stick a fork in me, I’m done! I needed a cigarette and glass of wine, and I neither smoke nor drink! A spoon would have worked just as well! It was a satisfying night and over way too soon! The theatre slowly emptied of the locals while the Soul Patrol and Traveling Circus stayed behind to chat, compare reactions and wait to see if Taylor would pop out to sign autographs and take a few pictures. For those who waited patiently, the wait was rewarded with opportunity!

When I got back to my hotel, quite a few member of the circus were in the lobby enjoying snacks and conversation. I sat down with my late night dinner and joined them. We were there until the wee hours, or better yet, until time for the lobby to be prepared for breakfast! I went to my room to catch a few hours nap before time to head to the airport for my return flight, leaving a few die-hards to continue the party. Flying back home gave me time to get another much needed nap! So I’ll catch up on lost sleep over the next few weeks before I head out again!

All I can say is this: seeing Taylor Hicks live in these small settings, giving his new music a chance to grow legs of their own, has been a wonderful experience for this die-hard fan! I’ve missed the traveling and the live shows and I’m happy to be able to have these experiences again! And seeing Taylor in “Grease” is also worth the price of a ticket to the local theatre where the musical is playing! Viva le “Grease”! Viva le shadow tour!

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am exhausted from reading your travel log. I think I wil take a nap now too.

Thanks loads

cath

tygrlillie said...

Whew! That sure WAS a whirlwind! I am so glad you got to go, darlin'. I hope to meet up with you still sometime soon - we'll never run out of opportunities with HIM around, will we?
~tyg

juliegr said...

Fantastic job, as usual, Rags. Love your description of WGTHI and I totally agree -- this will be the song of songs at his future concerts.

Glad to see you again.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Awesome, articulate and upbeat review of another unforgettable live Taylor Hicks performance! Thank you Rags!

-berney-

san said...

I always enjoy going along with the Circus! Thanks for taking us. I can't wait to hear the new music live!

Anonymous said...

Whew!! There was a lot of movin and groovin go on that night. Glad you had a blast and as always, thanks for the trip even if you weren't able to be there.

Beth

JOJOSIE said...

I haven't checked in on your blog for awhile and was delighted to see The Traveling Circus is still alive and well. Keep up the good work as it does make lots of fans happy to get things first hand.

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