The Roxy was the place to be to hear the most new music from Taylor Hicks. That’s what I had heard from several reliable sources. Armed with airline ticket and hotel reservation, the Traveling Circus set off for a West Coast adventure with our honored ringmaster, Taylor Hicks.
The Roxy, a small club on Sunset near Hammond, had reserved seating for VIPs and standing room only for the rest of us. The place was packed – another body near where I was positioned would have forced the crowd into the entrance area – oh wait, there were a few people sitting out there when I ventured to the ladies’ room! It was a full house, and maybe even a sell-out! The crowd appeared to be equally male and female, younger couples matched to older couples, groups of guys and groups of gals, former road band members, “Grease” cast members, and lots of Soul Patrol.
Curtains closed the stage off from the standing room only area. When the band finished cuing up for the show, the curtains were raised and Taylor Hicks was front and center, ready to entertain us, and perhaps even ‘take us to church’ as he’s often known to do. This would be the night to premier most of the songs from his latest CD, “The Distance” as well as songs from “Taylor Hicks” and “Early Works”!
Amid squeals and applause, the sweet melody of “The Distance” let us know that tonight would really be a special show! With that song, the distance between singer and audience subsided and crowd swayed to the music, video cameras popped up and cameras were clicking away. The press was in full force right up front with the hard core Soul Patrol who wanted the best places to stand. Live, “The Distance” is riveting and this listener was extremely proud to be sitting in attendance and excited for the success that is so due Taylor Hicks.
To keep us in suspense, familiar standards from his first CD, “Taylor Hicks”, “Give Me Tonight”, “Heaven Knows” and “The Maze” allowed us to rock and sway, and maybe even sing along. Original tour band members, Josh Smith and Brian Gallagher, were accompanied by additional musicians, many who were playing live for the first time with Taylor. Being top-notch musicians helped give the band their tight playing edge so that the novice attendee would never guess this band hadn’t always played together.
My favorite bonus cut, found only on the Wal-Mart CD, “Hide Nor Hair” left me as breathless and begging for more as it did the first time I heard Taylor Hicks perform it live in Cincinnati in January. This time, Taylor added the pedal steel guitar sounds of Jay Leach, giving the song a country feel. Mr. Leach can also be heard on several songs on the new CD, so check out the credits to find out which ones!
Letting us know the song had been well received at a San Diego Naval Base just a week or so earlier, and dedicating the song to our troops Taylor sang “Nineteen”, a ballad about a young man’s choice to give up a scholarship to enter military service after the Twin Towers were brought down. His hands on his chest, Taylor sang the song with the same emotion and poignancy reminiscent of the American Idol tour when he performed his coronation single, “Do I Make You Proud”. Performed live, the song, I’m certain, produced more than a few tears for some. Even as I write my recap I can still hear the pedal steel guitar of Mr. Leach, and feel the same emotions I felt that night hearing Taylor sing “Nineteen” for the first time.
Going back to his old bar days and his post-Idol CD, Taylor Hicks performed “Gonna Move” next. I never tire of hearing Taylor’s version, and often find myself wanting to sing along. Hopefully, if I did at the Roxy, no one heard me! Tim Carmen, another artist that was part of the “The Distance” recording sessions, was featured on the keyboard and organ. Quite an accomplished musician that I hope we get to see more of at future shows.
A song that surprised me the first time I heard it at Martyrs’ in January, and one that Taylor recorded as a duet with Elliot Yamin, “Woman’s Gotta Have It” followed. Taylor left off the spoken intro found on the CD but did start off with the high-pitched ‘woo-oo-oo’ to get the musical juices flowing. I still want to close my eyes and sway to the music as I remember the sweet melody and Taylor’s soulful voice singing that song.
Sticking with his recently released CD, Taylor next sang “I Live on a Battlefield”, a song about the pitfalls of fighting for love. I can still see Taylor moving and grooving as he directed the band while catching his breathe in anticipation of finishing the song.
An original, written long before becoming a household name and recorded originally on his self-produced “Under the Radar”, “The Deal” provides a great way to slow down the pace before upping the pace again. A simple song with a soothing melody has a great saxophone feature that showcases the talents of Brian Gallagher.
Co-written with Wynn Christian, an old band mate from Taylor’s days at Auburn, “Seven Mile Breakdown” is a funky rocking song about traveling the roads in the Mississippi Delta and a stretch of highway that includes nothing but flatlands! It’s the perfect song to feature the talents of Jay Leach and his pedal steel guitar. The drumming makes me think of a speeding train or galloping horse which only intensifies the rhythm for me leaving me needing to stand up and dance! The song also featured Taylor on the harmonica before finally taking us home.
Originally written for Ray Charles but never recorded by him, Taylor Hicks put on his Ray Charles persona as he performed “The Right Place” from his self-titled CD released two years ago. Amid squeals of excitement and female woo’s, Taylor once gain did the song the justice it deserved while Tim Carmen put his touches on the organ solo just before the song ended.
With its salsa and Latin beat, “Once Upon a Lover” is a fun song both for the CD and live performance. Brian Gallagher starts off with his flute and the Conga drums become more noticeable. Taylor hit the higher notes with perfection as his voice spanned the musical scale from high to low. I waited to hear him roll his r’s when he sang ‘senorita’ and I don’t think I was disappointed.
“What’s Right is Right”, the first single from “The Distance”, lets us know the show is winding down. The song about the perfect relationship, laughing and crying together, feels right when Taylor sings it. It was hard not to ‘play’ the video in my head while Taylor was singing, reminding me of the iconic images that Jake Davis sought to bring us in Taylor’s first musical video.
Once more there’s some early Taylor Hicks as he sing his original music, “Soul Thing”. Throw in some “Mama Said” and “Eastbound and Down” tags and the song is a crowd pleaser. Even the audience got into the song singing along with the “Mama Said” tags. When it was over, Taylor bade us good night and left the stage in a teasing manner, but for those of us that had attended other concerts knew an encore would be just moments away.
The encore, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”, was played with a mix of speed and irreverence that left me begging for a repeat performance. Taylor said he was going to do a ‘Billy Preston’ version, but this was really performed Taylor Hicks style. This is a song I hope to hear Taylor do again – I loved his interpretation of the song. As he left the stage for the final time, Taylor was blowing us kisses – he was happy with his performance and our responses and it was now time to relax and reflect on the music.
For almost two hours we had rocked, danced, clapped and cheered and yet it was over way too soon. For those who had the next day off (this was a Wednesday night performance after all), we stayed long after the majority went home and compared thoughts on the concert. Everyone was happy and pleased to have been there, glad they had traveled the distance and used coveted vacation days, and no one wanted to see the night end. For those few that stayed behind, the wait was rewarded with Taylor coming out to sign CDs and accept praise and thanks for the great show. It was all worth it! As Taylor would say, “it was all good”!
Pictures from the Roxy on Sunset
Tags: Taylor Hicks, American Idol, Soul Patrol, Grease, RagsQueen, Traveling Circus, Taylor Hicks Community