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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Traveling Circus Escapes to Maplewood

Most days, I really enjoy my job, but when the timing of special projects coincides with Taylor Hicks concert dates, it can be a real drag. The Maplewood show was one of those times. Taylor Hicks was playing November 5, and the tax budget was due the same day. The Traveling Circus isn’t one for waiting until the last minute to plan a trip, but this time, it would. It wasn’t until Thursday night that there was a glimmer of hope that the show would be a go.

Come Friday morning, we made our final push to get the tax numbers together. I was actually working ahead, something that generally doesn’t happen because of the nature of the work we do. A few phone calls to Minneapolis were made and Delta was checked for the availability of last minute frequent flyer flights. Test first the earlier flight. In the process, the last available seat was sold and that flight was not a possibility. OK, let’s try the next. That was good. A seat was available.

It was nearly 11:30 when the call that would be the deciding factor came in. Yes, there just happened to be a seat left at the Dawn of a Dream Gala on Saturday night. One down, two to go. A call from the boss – numbers are good, put the reporting spreadsheet together and file the budget. Next to secure the flight on Delta. The 4:00 flight was still available and would arrive in Minneapolis at 6:15 pm. For $5 and 25,000 frequent flyer miles the ticket was now mine. The Traveling Circus was going to Minneapolis.

A quick review of car rentals on Travelocity and a rental car would be ready to go. No time to make hotel reservations right now, because I have to finalize the budget workpapers. I’d just wait until after the show and see where everyone was staying. At least my camera was charged and a small bag was packed. Wait! Only enough clothes for one night! Well, a little light sink washing would make it all work, and the outfit I was planning to wear to the Friday night should could also work for Saturday night. It was settled.

The final numbers were off to corporate headquarters and I was off to the airport! Parked at my favorite car parking lot, boarded the shuttle and the next stop was the airport. Had to wait for a wheelchair attendant, but I had a little time to spare. Oh no! With a last minute ticket, would I have to go through extra security? No! Thank goodness, not this time, and I was soon at the departure gate. On-time flight departure meant on-time arrival, and I was golden!

Unfortunately, in Minneapolis, the wheelchair attendants only go between gates, but the electric carts would get me closer to ground transportation. The driver I found was the perfect gentleman – he got me closer to ground transportation than usual by taking a shortcut through the terminal. I soon had my car and with the phone GPS, was quickly on my way to the Maplewood Performing Arts Theatre.

It was now 6:45 pm and I had no idea where I was going. My GPS did, thank goodness, and before 7:15 we were parked and making our way into the theatre. The stage was set with a castle for an upcoming community play. That made a nice backdrop for Taylor Hicks to perform in front of. Right at 7:30 we were taking our seats and the theatre lights were starting to dim.

The band came out: Sam, Jeff, Brandon, Leif, and Brian. Brian announced the leader of the Soul Patrol and Taylor Hicks came out, walked up the steps and touched the top of the arch in front of the castle. The spotlight found him and then he was down on the stage!

Everyone was very casual. Not the usual men in black wardrobe. This was going to be a very relaxed show, and one I would regret missing. But here I sat, ready to be taken to church, to be mesmerized and left wanting more. The opening number, “Love the One You’re With”, had us dancing in our seats! The Maplewood theatre may be small in terms of the number of seats, but the lighting and sound system was one of the best I’ve experienced!

The theatre lights came on after the song, and Taylor says he just wants to see us! He received a thunderous applause! He liked the venue because he could actually hear us. Someone called out to Jeff, and that made Taylor laugh! “The Deal” is next. There were
small bongos set up in front of Jeff, so he played them in between horn parts”

“Dust My Broom” is fantabulous as always, and has been missed at least by the Traveling Circus! “What’s Right is Right” and “Battlefield” from “The Distance” were performed next. These are great songs and aren’t to be missed. Somewhere in these songs, maybe “Battlefield,” Sam was featured on the guitar. Brother, that man can pick with the best of them! And Taylor harp on “Back to Louisiana” was fantastic! Church, here we come! He’s taking us there!

At some point between songs, Taylor grabbed a bottle of Disanti water and told us a very cute story from his American Idol days. Seems Coca Cola delivered cases of the bottled water to the show and tour, but couldn't figure out why the contestants weren't drinking it. Taylor says it because someone told them there was gas in the water and the "kids" were leaving the stuff alone! Taylor took some of the water and put the lid back on!

“Nineteen” gets a well-deserved standing ovation, after its soulful and heartfelt message. It was that performance that brought home the loss of Matt who normally played the chimes several times during the song. He was missed, and most of the Soul Patrol who follows around made similar comments. Rest in peace, Matt, you are missed.

“Living for the City”, “Hold onto Your Love”, and “Soul Thing” continue the program. Taylor starts hopping on one leg, trying to zip his boots, when he says with the dancing he does, his boots come unzipped. Someone suggested he take them off, but he quickly came back with if he did, the room would clear quickly! I doubt it, but Taylor was taking no chances.

Jeff and Taylor were playing off each other a lot at Maplewood. Jeff would shake the tambourine and Taylor would give his the “eye” and go back to the song. Jeff would shake it again, and again Taylor gave him the “eye”. Finally, Taylor took the tambourine from Jeff. But the game wasn’t over yet.

Taylor asked if we’d ever seen someone play two horns at once as he pointed to Jeff. Jeff quipped back that he could do three at once! Well, not quite yet! Before the night was out, Jeff would demonstrate his ability to play clarinet and sax at the same time!

“Scarlet Begonias” was next. First heard performed by Taylor Hicks at EPCOT, this is becoming a show staple. Nice beat, and I’m liking it very much.

Don’t remember after which song, but Taylor placed his red guitar (the one almost ruined at EPCOT) in the stand. The stand wasn’t secure and the guitar began to slip. Taylor stepped back and tightened the stand screw. The guitar was uprighted again as Taylor pointed his figure and ordered the guitar to “stay”!!!

Most of the band headed for the shadows as Taylor and Brian remained in the forefront. “The Border Song” was coming. Not a sound could be heard. Just the two voices blending with ‘let us live in peace’. Someone had tweeted the request earlier in the week, and Taylor made someone’s night with the song. Bless their golden hearts!

“Stay With Me” and “Seven Mile Breakdown” finished the show. Near the end of “Seven Mile Breakdown”, Taylor picket up the tambourine and held it over Jeff’s head like a halo. We knew better, but it did give us a peak into Taylor’s sense of humor. There was no encore tonight but that was fine. Almost 90 non-stop song-filled minutes had passed. The audience was happy, and left satisfied.

When the show ended, many gathered to discuss just how relaxed and fun the show had been. I got instructions for going to the Mall of America and found out where everyone was staying. With the help of a couple of friends, I made my way to the Hampton Inn where they were staying, and fortunate they had a vacancy. I would change hotels the next night to be closer to those going to the gala.

Yes, Taylor Hicks and his band had delivered a great show. It was well worth the effort I’d made to get there at the last minute. As we made our way to our cars, we paused to watch Taylor greet fans for autographs and pictures. The line was long, but the smile on his face said he was happy. And that’s all that really matters in the end!

Pictures from Maplewood

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paying it Forward - "Nineteen"-style

Nationally, today is Veterans' Day, but it should be everyday for the service these men and women have provided and continue to provide for our great nation. As Taylor Hicks reminds us during a recent show, stop to thank a soldier. It's a small gesture on our part that means a great deal to the one receiving it, especially when they give so freely of themselves for our freedom.

On a recent flight, I had the privilege to witness a small gesture of kindness from a fellow passenger. The man had received an upgrade to first class while his friend was sitting in coach, just a row up from me. He was chatting away, when a soldier boarded the plane and headed for the seat the man was standing near. Without hesitation, the man gave the soldier his seat in first class and then proceeded to take the soldier's seat. The soldier was tall, and the extra leg space in first class was probably much needed. The soldier tried to refuse, but the passenger wouldn't take no for an answer.

The men took their seats, the flight attendant retrieved the man's newspaper, and the doors to the plane were shut. The flight attendant, in gratitude to the passenger, provided him with whatever he wanted or desired in terms of beverage and snacks.

I don't know what he had, but thought about his gesture, and wondered, "what I have been able to do the same?" Would you?

To all the men and women who serve in our military, and to their families and friends, I say thank you for a job well done. To those who have gone before, like my father, I say thank you for a job well done. To those who will provide our military protection in the future, I say you have some mighty big boots to fill, but thank you in advance.

Let every day be Veterans' Day, for every veteran has earned that honor. Thank you for your service, now and forever.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

30th Anniversary Dawn of a Dream Gala

It’s the story of “a child shall lead”. Before her death at age 13, in 1979, leukemia patient, Katie Hageboeck asked her parents to donate the money she had saved for a new bike to a group struggling to raise funds to fund cancer research. That donation would be the impetus for her parents to found the Children’s Cancer Research Fund in her memory.

Katie’s gift of $500 has grown to provide nearly $80 million dollars to provide funding for doctors and researchers at the University of Minnesota for their work in pediatric cancer research.

Their first fundraising effort in 1980 netted $50,000. This year’s event raised over $900 thousand dollars, actually going over their goal by $100 grand! The 30th Anniversary Dawn of a Dream Gala, held at The Depot in downtown Minneapolis was a “sold out” event where a thousand guests gathered to celebrate the work of the Research Fund and help raise funds for another year of its remarkable work.

Silent and live auctions were part of the pre- and post- dinner activities. The live auction raised an amazing amount of money. A couple of vacations netted $13,000 or more. A three-month Maserati lease fetched a tidy sum for the charity.

The most amazing part of the evening was observing the raising of $250 thousand dollars for a high-power microscope to be used in the research performed at the University of Minnesota. By the time the auctioneer was finished, the funds were raised, and possibly even exceeded. I couldn’t keep the addition going in my head that fast! One pledge of $20k lead to four pledges of $15k which lead to perhaps six pledges of $10k. There were even more $5k pledges and $1,000 pledges that seemed to take five minutes to be recognized. And some of these donations came from winning bidders in the live auction who had already paid substantial amounts for the live auction items.

The host for the evening, and her name escapes me, provided a couple of songs over the course of the evening, one of which was “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. She had a beautiful voice to go with her beautiful heart.

In a surprising moment during the program, Taylor Hicks, along with Jeff Lopez and Brian Less, took the stage to sing “What’s Right is Right”. Sitting on a stool, Taylor sang the most beautiful version of the song I’ve ever heard. I’ve always thought the song was about love for one’s partner, but as I listened to the words for the thousandth time, I realized it could just as easily be about a parent’s love for a child, especially one that has a dreaded disease. While Taylor sang, pictures of Taylor with the children at the University of Minnesota were displayed. The kids loved the opportunity to meet an American Idol, and Taylor seemed to be taken by the spirit of these children.
The family that used their daughter’s death and meager savings to seed the Research Fund, Diana and Norm Hageboeck, were introduced and spoke of the work done by the University of Minnesota. Their goal is simple: eradicate childhood cancer and spare other parents from losing a child to such a devastating disease.

Our feelings were not spared. We heard of successes and losses. We were introduced to the doctors and researchers. We heard from the heads of the organization and the committee putting together the gala. In the end, hearts and wallets were opened and goals were met for the event.

To close out the anniversary gala, entertainment was provided by Taylor Hicks. Tables emptied and guests rushed towards the dance floor where guests filled the area. Some danced, others watched, but all enjoyed the music. Taylor performed such concert favorites as “Love the One You’re With”, “Back to Louisiana”, “Living for the City”, “Seven Mile Breakdown”, “Takin’ It to the Streets”, and my favorite, “Bulletproof”. All the music was perfect for dancing and working off the excitement of the evening.

The evening had been a success! The goal of the gala had been surpassed. And a powerful microscope would be purchased. It was a fun event, and I was glad to be part of a wonderful event.

To make a donation to the Children's Research Cancer Fund, please visit their site at:

I'll be back later in the week with a recap from Maplewood, and another story of paying forward, "Nineteen" style so keep checking back.

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Some of My Favorite Pictures