The drive from the Pensacola airport was easy. The roads were dual lane and once on US Hwy 29, I felt like I was at home! I’ve driven that part of the US route that runs between Greensboro and Reidsville in North Carolina many times. I was surprised to find part of it here! Actually, US 29 begins in Pensacola, FL and runs northward to Baltimore, MD, covering just over a thousand miles of US country.
When I made my left on to SR 97, still in Florida, I found myself in farm country. Beautiful and lush green fields, corn standing a foot high and the occasional horse farm in between. It was peaceful. But the speed limits would require cruise control use to make sure I didn’t get stopped! Some areas were 45, other 55 and about 1,000 feet was 65! The sheriff departments could make a killing just off the tickets!
As I approached Atmore, I was greeted with “Welcome to Alabama” and “Thanks for Visiting Florida” signs. And a road number change did nothing but mess with my mind! I was on AL 21 and hadn’t made a turn. I felt lost so I called the hotel – just keep coming the way I was – it was just before I-65. I found Wind Creek Casino first, then the Holiday Express just before the interstate. Poor marking for where to turn to get to the hotel had me passing by it, but a quick turn around and I was in the parking lot in less than 60 seconds. The hotel is relatively new and you could almost smell the fresh paint and caulking.
After a quick check-in and a welcomed nose-powdering, I was back in the rental car to head to Wind Creek. First stop, valet – it was full unless you were a member or high-roller, neither of which qualified me for the service. On the highway side was parking for the amphitheater and really quite close. I found a good spot to park, set the alarm and headed to get in line with friends.
The doors opened before the appointed 7:00 which was good because my back was about to go numb from the 15 minutes I’d been standing. (Just before Christmas I learned I was born with a congenital birth defect that will require surgery to relieve the intense pain so I can just function, but that’s for another entry). I found my seat and decided to stay put until the very end – no drinks for me because the potty was a long hike and I would have to wait for the show to end.
Now mind you, this was a singing competition, down to the final two from the nearly 2,000 original contestants. Comedian Sinbad was the host for the show and the famous judge of the event was the leader of the Soul Patrol and a former singing contest winner himself, Taylor Hicks. Other judges seemed to be heavy hitters in the music industry, such as someone from CMT and I forget who the other two were.
I’m bad – I was there for Taylor Hicks who was rumored to be singing 6 songs. That was fine. Plus I was going to be entertained by Sinbad and the final two contestants, Holly and Christina.
Sinbad was a hoot, asking where in the world he was – Taylor could have told him LA just for laughs (but he didn’t)! Time to meet the contestants and have them perform a duet. It was going to be a tough night because both of these young ladies could belt a tune. Holly was into country while Christina was R&B. Finally Taylor was introduced and went right into his first two songs, “The Distance” and “What’s Right is Right”.
The contestants then came out to each sing a song in their genre. Couldn’t tell you what they sang, but I wasn’t about to envy the judges. I figured they ended the first round even. After that round, the sixth through third place contestants each sang a song. I don’t know how the judges managed to narrow down the field because these were excellent performers, especially the guy who played the keyboard and sang an original tune about his brother. The CMT judge later told him to see him after the show! Woo Hoo! Someone had made a score!
Taylor Hicks did two more songs, “Battlefield” and “Maybe You Should”. Taylor and Sinbad played quite well off each other. Taylor suggested he be the next American Idol judge and Sinbad said he could replace Randy Jackson, giving quite an impression of Randy! Sinbad hinted at Taylor to do a variety show or something like that. Comments flew about being ADD and off meds – we know that one quite well!
Before the final round, Sinbad gave a couple of people from the audience a chance to perform. Not bad – they had been cut earlier in the completion. Finally the two young ladies came back to out to sing their final songs of the event. Taylor made a good judge, giving careful thought to what he had to say. I was proud of how he handled himself in that role. With Christina, he commented on watching her toes and noting that she felt the music all the way down to them! Taylor should know – he’s the same way!
Taylor Hicks did his last two songs: “Nineteen” and “Seven-Mile Breakdown”. I was sitting just behind Christina’s support group, and when Taylor began to belt out “Seven-Mile Breakdown”, those supporters were on their feet and dancing to the music! It was hard to see Taylor, but I have to admit I was enjoying their enthusiasm!
The votes were tallied, and we’d been warned before the show that in the event of a tie, there would be a text-voting to decide the winner. I was glad that wouldn’t happen – Holly’s supporters took up an entire second while Christina’s took up just over two rows. It was a tight score: 127 to 129. Christina was crowned the winner! She and Holly hugged for a long time – they had become friends and family. Tears were flowing as well as relief. I figured it was the last song that pushed Christina ahead.
Of course Sinbad had to have the final word – cash your big check on Monday! And it was big in size as well as dollars. And well deserved – for either young woman! I’m sure we’ll hear more from both of them in the future. The lights went down and the crowd dispersed over towards Taylor’s merchandise table. It looked like a mob scene from where I was sitting, and hopefully it would be a profitable night for Taylor from the sales of “The Distance”. He’s seen my old mug enough, and I was in need of sustenance from sitting there for three hours, so I went in search of dinner and friends, and some time with those thieving one-armed bandits!
A few pictures to go with the video
Tags: Taylor Hicks, American Idol, Soul Patrol, Grease, RagsQueen, Traveling Circus, Taylor Hicks Community