The die-hard old ladies, as we’ve often been referred to, braved the wintery elements and frigid temperatures that hit Madison, Wisconsin this week to meet up for the last Taylor Hicks shadow show of the year. There may have been 17 inches of snow with 3-6 inches of packed snow and ice on the roads and temps in the single digits, but inside the High Noon Saloon, it was toasty warm by the time Taylor Hicks took the stage.
Now back home where I live, when it snows or sleets, it’s time to head for the house and stay put. Maybe even to make a quick stop by the grocery to pick up milk, bread and soup makings before locking the door for the night. Turn on the gas logs, the TV and laptop, cover up with a quilt and enjoy a warm bowl of soup. No one is going to be out tonight, at least I’m not. Maybe not even the next day unless my boss picks me up – I just don’t drive in the mess.
But for Taylor Hicks, I put away the sensibilities for a few days and headed north to where the winter storms had recently dumped snow and frigid temperatures. Before you say anything, yes, I’m very well aware of the fact that I’m a bit on the crazy side, daft at times, but to see Taylor Hicks perform acoustically, well, I’m not going to sit it out if I can help it. Anyway, the ticket and airfare were already paid for so I might as well go. Right?!?!?!
But here I was in the land of cheese and snow. The drive from Milwaukee was like driving through a Christmas card. The branches of the fir trees were hanging down from the weight of the snow. Only the interstate and main roads had been seen the snow plows and salt trucks. The fields were covered in pristine white snow and no animal tracks. Hay bales looked like bases of snowmen waiting to be completed. Roof tops were dripping with icicles that looked more like daggers and still covered with thick blankets of snow. I didn’t stop to capture the Kodak moment, but any Christmas scene will bring back the memory.
Once I made my way to Madison and left the interstate, I was beginning to question my sanity. Here I was driving on ice and packed snow. Me. I had no idea what to do – go with the skid or go against it. Hit the breaks or pump the breaks. Thank goodness I had paid for the collision insurance on the rental car – it looked like I might need it when I couldn’t get stopped at a red light with several cars in front of me. Pumping the break, I stopped just short of the next bumper.
Finding the hotel was the next adventure. The small courtyard in front was easy to see, but which building was the hotel. Twice I circled around, going up grades that only a goat would love and hoping no one would be stopped behind me. Finally, I figured it out (after a phone call) and made it safely to the correct door and inside the warmth of the hotel. This was a night for cab fare and drivers far more experienced with the elements than this old bird.
The group of ladies I was going to see Taylor with finally arrived and were of the same mind – cab drivers would be the way to go. We decided to go to the early show to see Shaky, a Neil Young Tribute band. For $5 and pizza, we decided we’d check it. They were an older group. Not being familiar with Neil Young music, I had no clue what they were playing but some of it was really good while the rest was nothing more than noise.
After a break and stage reset for Taylor Hicks’ show, the opening act, Mark Harrod took the stage behind his keyboard first for a couple of songs. Later he would use the guitar as accompaniment. I enjoyed Mark’s kind of music. He was very articulate in both his conversation and lyrical style. I didn’t buy his CD while I was there, but I think I may have to order it online. Mark’s a Madison native and former banker who decided a career in music was more to his liking. He definitely has the chops for the gig and I certainly wish him great success.
The table of ladies behind me gasped, and as I look around to see what it was about, I see Taylor in toboggan and wool coat with his entourage head for the room behind the stage to get ready for the show. It wouldn’t be long now before Taylor hits the stage!
Finally Brian Less leads the pack out followed by Jason Parker and Sam Gunderson. They take their places and with a quick musical interlude Taylor Hicks bounds the stage steps with his jack open to show us the holiday-looking lining! He looked happy and excited to be at the High Noon Saloon and his audience was equally as happy and excited!
Sitting down and grabbing his shiny black Taylor guitar, the opening number was “Gonna Move”. The songwriter may have been talking about moving, but the Traveling Circus was about to be moved. Now I’ve heard the song a number of times but acoustically, it is mesmerizing as I watch Taylor’s fingers glide or strum the guitar strings. No pick. Just his bare fingers or nail beds, I can’t tell just which. The man is happy to be singing for us. Just as happy as we are to be there! And I’m like right at his feet – if my table was any closer, I would be sitting on the stage! When “Gonna Moves” ends, the band and Taylor move effortlessly into “Soul Serenade” as if it were part of the first song.
Telling us the next song was from an earlier album when he was a kid, “In Your Time”, the audience is expecting the title song until Taylor Hicks says the song is “The Deal”. Someone says it’s from “Under the Radar” and he jokes with the crowd about knowing his music better and just keeping us on our toes. “The Deal” is perfect whether performed acoustically or with a full band.
Not a song expected to be performed in an acoustic set, “The Runaround” works its magic just fine with just guitars and a keyboard. After all, the intro features the ivories so to include the number makes sense. Taylor Hicks says it has a Billy Joel feel to it, so why not.
One of the evening’s highlights and crowd favorites is “Maybe You Should”. Perfect for the keyboard, its soulful melody is both haunting and reverent. Whether the partner will leave or not is not known, but the lyrics are enough to make one rethink leaving. Taylor has said a number of times that the song is on hold for another artist and hopes it will be recorded soon. An audience member even asks if Taylor wrote the song and said it was a beautiful song. He was right….it is a beautiful song!
Other songs for the evening included the Beatles, “Don’t Let Me Down”, “I Live on a Battlefield”, and “Forever Man”. Sam Gunderson was featured in a guitar solo during “Don’t Let Me Down” which was wonderful. I’m used to hearing Sam with an electric guitar and to hear him on acoustic was a treat. “Forever Man” is an old song back the days when Taylor played with Sam and Brian on a nightly basis. Taylor thought it sounded pretty good, and so did the audience.
Dedicated to our servicemen, “Nineteen” is a beautiful tribute to the sacrifice our military make to keep us safe and free. Performed acoustically is best because it brings out the reverence intended by the melody and lyrics. And Taylor Hicks performs it just that way. It’s one of his best songs on “The Distance”, his latest CD.
The first single off the last album, “What’s Right is Right”, is another beautiful song for an acoustic set. Taylor calls it a soul song, but I think it’s a great love song. It’s the kind of love that I want and I’m sure Taylor is looking for. (Sure beats getting “The Runaround”!) The harmonica was excellent tonight. Throw in “Tupelo Honey” and more harp to make the number complete and show off the musical skills of Taylor. I’m always amazed at how the musicians can anticipate and keep up with Taylor.
Rounding out the set were “Feeling Alright” and “Seven Mile Breakdown”. Taylor called the first song a ‘piano song’ and the second ‘a roadhouse song’. Both were great songs. It was great to hear the ‘hiccup’ in Seven Mile Breakdown again tonight! He even referred to Wisconsin in the song – glad he know where he was!
After chanting for Taylor to return for an encore, Brian Less comes out alone and begins to play the keyboard. Taylor joins him on stage for a duet of “The Border Song”. As the lyrics state, “Holy Moses”, was what went through my mind as Taylor sang the song. A fitting ending for the evening, the song was as much about peace as the holiday season we are in with the “Let us Live in Peace” lyrics. When the song was over, Taylor Hicks stood and wished us Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas as he left the stage. Same to you Taylor – we’ll be back in the saddle with you next year!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night!
Pictures from the High Noon Saloon
Tags: Taylor Hicks, American Idol, Soul Patrol, Grease, RagsQueen, Traveling Circus, Taylor Hicks Community