For the Taylor Hicks’ purest, Ferndale, MI was the place to be at a club called the Magic Bag. We were promised an acoustic Taylor and that’s just what we got. Not only that, but this show in my opinion, was the BEST ever – live Taylor Hicks – what he must have been like pre-Idol.
The band was small – Brian Less on the keyboard, John Kulinich on guitar, Jason Parker on bass, and Taylor Hicks on guitar and harmonica. These were ‘his boys’ and Taylor had ‘hand picked them’ for this show. The Magic Bag, a small theater with tables and chairs, seats around 300 patrons with standing room for maybe another 100 in the pit in front of the stage. With a funky cat and big round fabric lanterns, the place was intimately cozy and perfect for this acoustic show. THE show of shows!
The show opened with glad applause and cheers as Taylor entered from the back of the stage and took a seat at the front. Tonight, Taylor Hicks sat while the audience stood near the stage or sat in the seats. With his guitar resting across him, his harmonica case ready on his left, Taylor shouted out “I love Ferndale” and then started the concert off with “The Distance” from his latest CD by the same title.
Per Taylor Hicks, “the next song was off “The Distance” which can be found in any record store!” Not that he was hawking his new CD! “I Live on a Battlefield” followed. With just three guitars and the keyboard, the song had a different sound, and one that I really liked, and actually liked better than when I’ve heard it with the full band. The musical interlude with just the musicians was fantastic and the various guitars could be distinguished from each other which really intensified the sound. Hopefully, we hear this version again – and real soon!
From the first post-Idol CD, “The Runaround”, a song with a drum corps beat, performed acoustically, was a special treat. With Brian on the keys, and Taylor, John and Jason on guitars, no other instruments were necessary. The music was just as funky and Taylor’s voice was better showcased!
The first single from “The Distance”, “What’s Right is Right” is perfect for an acoustic show. Taylor told us that he’d been told us he’d heard it was a great song for weddings, and that “Do I Make You Pride” was a good mother of the bride song! And I have to agree!
Taking from his Beatles collection, Taylor Hicks performed “Don’t Let Me Down”, a song he did frequently during the Season 5 American Idol Tour. The guitars and keyboard kept the song from overpowering Taylor’s voice and Brian’s vocal accompaniment. It was a good choice to add to the acoustic set because of its lyrical simplicity. The musical interlude was a good way to feature Taylor and John on the acoustic guitars.
An early original, “The Deal” is perfect for an acoustic set. Tonight was probably much like hearing the original Taylor, before he became a household name and celebrity. Close your eyes and you can probably hear the song, the guitars playing in harmonic duel without overshadowing each other, but rather in accompaniment and compliment.
Written by a friend, and given to Taylor Hicks when he was about 20, the song is about what happens to many a young man when a former lover gets married. Except this time, the ex-lover gets the bride! The first time performed live, “Wedding Day Blues” thrilled the audience! When he got to the part of the song about “tossing the groom out of the limo and making love to the bride”, he gave us a sly but mischievous look. Amid screams and applause, laughter and fun, one can image how the story might play out if it really did happen to Taylor or one of his friends!
“Once Upon a Lover”, according to Taylor Hicks, was written while in France while he was working on the material for his latest CD. Several times throughout the song did a ‘trrrrrlll’ with his voice. I don’t know how else to describe it! The guitars had a Spanish twang that complimented the theme of the song. And with a Spanish flair, at the very end, Taylor stood up and did a ‘mock fandango’ move. Not just once, but twice! And too quick for me to capture for posterity!
Taylor thanked us for coming, not just to the Magic Bag, but for supporting “Grease” and Detroit! Having a bit of fun with the audience, he asked us what was next. With shouts of various songs, he said we sounded like we were heckling the Penguins, and then Brian said it sounded like the audience shouting out prices of prizes on “The Price is Right”!
The song that brought tears to my eyes, “Nineteen” was next. This wasn’t the first time Taylor Hicks performed it, but this was the best performance. Brian’s keyboard was the most prominent instrument during the song, but I’m sure the guitars were strummed as well. Taylor’s voice was strong, and at the end, he signaled to John to finish the number with a solo guitar.
Paul Pena’s “Gonna Move”, a frequent song on Taylor’s set list, and admittedly his mantra because he’s ‘always on the move’, featured Brian on the keyboard and Jason “the Kid” on bass. Some dueling guitars between Taylor and John would also thrill us. Taylor’s comfort level and guitar skills shined through his ability to hold his own with another equally accomplished guitar player while Brian’s fingers flew across the keyboard at a speed that would rival the fastest race car driver’s! Before it was over, some “Soul Serenade” and “Sugaree” found their way into “Gonna Move”.
Something we should all practice, “Indiscriminate Act(s) of Kindness”, is the perfect song for an encore. But instead, we were treated to this song as part of the main concert. And we heard it first here, at the Magic Bag! Performed predominately with just guitars and Brian singing harmony along with quiet keystrokes, the crowd was remained quiet and mesmerized – as least I was – by Taylor’s voice.
Another new song, “Maybe You Should” was performed before a hushed crowd. Taylor admitted that this song made ‘the hairs on his arms stand up’ the first time he heard the song. And for those of us there, we could understand that statement. With eyes closed and arms resting on his guitar, Taylor sang the song softly and with feeling and emotion. This was a song we’ve waited for since the first shadow tour in January, and it was worth the wait. I hope we will hear it more often. It’s a great song!
The song most recently associated with Taylor Hicks show encores, “My Sweet Lord” was great acoustically as well as giving Taylor a chance to play some harmonica, assuming he had the right harp, that is! Grabbing harmonica after harmonica and testing, Taylor quickly realized he didn’t have the one he needed. Finally making the “A” gesture to Clay Connor, tour manager, and shouting to get him an “A”, Clay ran back stage and came back with the right harp. Taylor poked fun at himself about being the band leader and yet never missed a beat in the song!
“Seven Mile Breakdown”, Taylor’s most recent single for the country stations, was the last song of the main show. At times the guitars were able to give it a country twang like a banjo might have been added to the mix of instruments. Again Brian was singing backgrounds, and for a moment there, I thought the woman who actually did it was singing along as well! Before the song was over Taylor was ‘sucking and blowing’ on his trusty harmonica. Once more Taylor thanked us for coming and bid us good night before leaving the stage.
After a very brief intermission, Taylor came back to give us “Feeling Alright” as the Magic Bag encore. Brian was giving the ivories quite a workout as he played the keyboard. That man can play those keys with such speed that I wonder if the keyboard will catch on fire!
And speaking of fire, during the first couple of songs, I would swear I saw smoke coming out from behind Taylor! I’m sure it was just the lighting but for a couple of moments….
Almost as quickly as Taylor took the stage, security was scouring the crowd making sure NO video was being taken. For that, I’m very sorry, because this was THE show to video tape. Pictures without flash were fine, so you will have to enjoy those shots included throughout the recap and at the link below.
Tonight, it was all about the music. Pure. Unadulterated. Raw. Gritty. Emotional. Intimate. Taylor was in his element. His comfort zone. Into his music. If you were there, you know what I mean. If you missed it, well….I’m truly sorry.
Pictures from The Magic Bag