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

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Traveling Circus Believes Charity Begins at Home

The Traveling Circus spent the week-end in Birmingham participating in several charitable events promoting help for those whose lives were affected by the recent tornados. Charity should begin at home by helping our neighbors restore some sense of normalcy to their lives.

As I was driving into Birmingham Saturday afternoon, I was shocked at the devastation I witnessed. I had seen the Tuscaloosa pictures but I didn’t realize that the Birmingham area was also hit during those same storms. Roofs were covered with tarps, trees were ripped apart and littered the area, and one subdivision was completely gone with only foundations remaining. This was why I had come: to help bring relief to the area.

For the admission price of a few canned goods, I would have an almost front row seat to a free concert in Linn Park with music featuring Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard, my two favorite American Idol winners. It was hot Sunday afternoon, and the sun was bright as it looked over City Hall. Armed with two bags full of groceries to help restock the local food banks, my trusty scooter and I headed to find a spot in front of the stage. Billed as One2One, Neighbor Helping Neighbor, the community had the opportunity to come together as one to help those in need, even if they themselves were in need.

At 4:00, only the most astute Taylor fans had taken up residence on the front row; I parked on the second row. Within a few minutes, others began to arrive; Ruben Studdard’s grandmother unfolded her chair next to me. Slowly the crowd began to gather, and by the time the music started, the park was packed with people standing, sitting, or walking about.

Vendors lined the streets beside the park: Full Moon BBQ and Dream Cakes to name a couple that I remember. I was there for the music, not the food and besides, it was way too hot to eat. In between performances of a local flutist and a jazz group from the local School of Art, presentations were made to fire, police and city workers who were first responders to the citizens when the storms passed that fateful day. The people of Birmingham can be proud of these individuals who worked tirelessly to help the survivors even when faced with the loss of their own homes during the storms.

Taylor Hicks and his band were first up since several band members had other engagements later in the evening. Taylor performed such favorites as “Compared to What”, “Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”, “Battlefield”, “What’s Right is Right”, “Seven Mile Breakdown” plus whatever tags he could fit into his almost 45 minute show, such as “Birmingham”! The Soul Patrol cheered on their leader as those who hadn’t seen Taylor before were ready to jump on board with the Traveling Circus! Before finishing his set, Taylor even tried to show the Mayor a few of his dance moves!

Next was Ruben Studdard with his band. Not being familiar with his music, I can’t tell what he sang, but I can tell you, the crowd loved him! At the end of his set, Taylor joined him on stage to sing “Sweet Home Alabama”.

The donations of canned goods totaled close to 3 tons! The concert had been a success, and fans had had the opportunity to see their favorite Idol, be it Taylor, Ruben or both!

While the Traveling Circus was in town to participate in charitable goodwill, it also got the opportunity to hear other Birmingham musicians, such a Rolling in the Hay and Frankie Velvet, as well as sample the fare at Ore, Rogue Tavern and several local BBQ establishments. If you have the opportunity to hear Rick Carter and these bands, please take the time to do…you won’t be disappointed! Monday was a day of rest in preparation for the Tuesday night event for which the Traveling Circus had originally planned to attend.

Tuesday rolled around and we picked up our Bama Rising VIP tickets at the BCJJ will call window. We made plans to arrive later around 6:30 for the before show festivities. It was a good thing I had the scooter because the walk between the hotel and BJCC was quite a hike, especially the route we decided to take. With the heat, we tried to stay inside only to discover there was no way to get to our destination! We retraced our steps and made the trek across the street, down the ramp and across the courtyard.

Many local eateries had furnished food for the pre- and post-show receptions, with different groups serving each time. It was a great way to sample the wares of many fine establishments in the city and for these places to do their part in helping to raise funds to restore their city. Tonight, the evening was about Bama Rising from the storm ruins to once again be home to those residents who had suffered much from the devastating storms.

The lineup was a who’s who in country music, names that were not Alabama natives but who willingly donated their time to the fundraiser. Before the end of the night, over $2 million dollars would be raised!

From Fort Payne, AL, the band Alabama came back together to spearhead the event. Joining Alabama were Rodney Atkins, Dierks Bentley, Bo Bice, Blind Boys of Alabama, Luke Bryan, the Commodores, Sheryl Crow, Sara Evans, Taylor Hicks, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry, David Nail, Jake Owen, Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler, Darius Rucker, and Ashton Shepherd. With the exception of Alabama and Brad Paisley, each artist sang two songs chosen for the evening. Alabama and Paisley sang additional songs for the event.

Most artists brought their own bands although it seemed there was a house band for those who needed it. It was great to see Taylor’s band with him; it was such a great opportunity for all of those guys to perform together at an event like this! For over five and a half hours we were treated to exceptional performances. If you weren’t a country music fan, much of the evening may have been boring, but if you could open your mind and be there for the artistry and talent, it was an enjoyable evening! I came away a new Bo Bice and Brad Paisley fan!

From the Blind Boys of Alabama version of “Amazing Grace” to Alabama’s “My Home’s in Alabama” to Taylor Hicks’ “Nineteen” and “Seven Mile Breakdown” to the Commodores’ “Brick House”, the crowd watched and danced and cheered as their favorite artist performed. There were several standing ovations during the course of the evening, one of which went to Taylor Hicks for “Nineteen”.

For a night filled with country music stars, Taylor Hicks seemed as much at ease on the stage as he did at Linn Park on Sunday and as I’ve seen him in many other places around the country. He was in his element and seemed to be as well received by the attendees as any other artist there for Bama Rising!

It was a great evening for the City of Birmingham and its citizens. They can be proud of the event. Aside from a few members of the Traveling Circus, I heard there were guests in attendance from the Bahamas and a number of other states! Fans of these bands came together to help, and citizens of the area, even those affected directly by the storms filled the arena to capacity, anywhere from sitting on the main floor level to the filling the seats in the rafters. It was a wonderful crowd, and the Traveling Circus was happy to do its part!

Pictures from Linn Park, Sunday night

Pictures from Bama Rising, Tuesday night

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Some of My Favorite Pictures