Saturday, July 21, 2012

Taylor Hicks Rocks the Vegas Gig!

"I Live on a Battlefield” sold me!

It was a “dark horse” that grew on me when Taylor Hicks recorded it on his 2009 album, The Distance.

I had heard it before. Just not like this.

With the reviews and hype behind me, I was about to have my own look at what it was all about. “Living for the City” is a rousing opening that sets the raucous mood. When the first few lines of “I Live on a Battlefield” were delivered with such power and fierce enunciation, I could feel the anger of the lyrics with the “ruins of the love we knew.”

"'Battlefield' killed!"

And I knew what the hype was all about. This was going to be different.

That’s what you learn straight away when you follow this American Idol. You think you’ve heard it, but you haven’t.

Vegas insider John Katsilomentes for the Las Vegas Sun said:

“Taylor Hicks is too much for this room. Indigo is a cool little spot, but he's apt to reduce it to rubble.”

“I Live on a Battlefield” could be that which reduces this “cool little spot” to rubble!

Taylor Hicks opened an eight-week residency at Bally’s Indigo Lounge in June. His intimate show is soul, rock, blues, country, and, yes, “funiness” from the Idol who says he’s trying to learn the comedy bit. It is the spectrum of sounds from the whole band blazing on songs like “I Live on a Battlefield” and “Country Living” to single exquisite moments of sound from “In the Ghetto” and “19.” Each, and everything in between, is a summer picnic for the senses.

I have to take the Thursday night show in the intimate Indigo as the best in the three from last weekend perhaps just because it was my first look at what all the talk was about. There was no denying the energy of the music and, like those Hollywood hills, it took you higher and higher and higher! The band was blazing, the leader of the Soul Patrol was relaxed and in superb voice, and everyone was having fun.

I sat next to a family that was in Las Vegas for a reunion. They had never seen Taylor Hicks but were excited to find him in Vegas. They loved the concert and one of them kept moving closer to the stage to take a picture just like the true fan! As Taylor has said—one fan at a time! This time it was three!

A Taylor Hicks concert is a musical sharing as Taylor interacts and generously features his band of outstanding musicians who so obviously love making music. Jamie McLean, Brian Less, Brian Gallagher, Brian Griffen, Mark Vanderpoel, and Joe Bergeron are all showcased with solos and the spotlight. You know how good they are in their own right. Together, they prove what a huge “sum total” they are!

For the Elvis purist, “In the Ghetto” is a departure, but in a good way. Taylor likes the version and you can tell. “That’s a cool version….But what do I know?!” One guest this week called it “musically brilliant” and that is a good description. Its juxtaposition of tragic lyrics sung with raspy emotion of the streets, musical jamming of guitars and saxophone, and, finally, exquisite sounds by percussions and drums are stunning. The inspired ending to “Ghetto” is one of the exquisite moments of the evening.

“19” is that balance that keeps us grounded. Taylor brings the show full circle with his tribute to a fallen soldier and honors our troops with a sincere request to thank them for their service. It receives a well-deserved standing ovation for the troops. We were honored to have a Serviceman in the audience at one performance.

“Country Living” written by lead guitarist Jamie McLean is country like you haven’t heard. If you aren’t movin’ and groovin’ happy with this song, you aren’t breathing. It almost literally blows the roof off and could be part of the demolition of the Indigo!

“Seven Mile Breakdown” and its tag, Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” is a tale of two roads, and I’ve been on both. The humidity is almost visible as you drive the flat roads of the Mississippi delta. “Seven Mile Breakdown” laments “you hate being down before you ever loved being up” and “I’m gonna tear this whole place down, and I’ll be on my way” about tearing down after the show and hitting the road.

Running on Empty” talks of life on tour for Jackson Browne specifically on California’s beautiful “101” road “running into the sun.” These two songs are a dichotomy of places, but in harmony in spirit about life on the road for musicians and for us all “running on, running on, running into the sun…”

In all that goes on in the evening’s eclectic set list, the beautiful “Running on Empty” isn’t lost. It is remarkably that—a beautiful song that holds its own. It defines “real music” and is my most memorable moment.

Viva Las Vegas” finale is a natural for a nod to the Neon City. It’s the perfect Vegas ending with the curtains opening and the entire casino joining the chorus with enthusiasm probably in measure to their luck at the machines.

I don’t know what Las Vegas expected from the first American Idol to play a residency here. To the credit of Taylor Hicks and the good luck of Vegas, they got the real deal. This is not a made-for-Vegas show. He kept the roadhouse, the soul, the blues, and the genuine persona of the Southern soul singer “blessed” to be here. With only a nod to Las Vegas, he kept it…real Taylor Hicks!

As someone who has picked himself up a few times and gotten back in the race, “That’s Life” is a good Sinatra choice. Taylor had fun with it.  It fits.

That’s what he was doing the first time he ever came to Las Vegas—getting back in the race, auditioning for American Idol.

And just sometimes the race really pays off in a big time Vegas way!

The hype is now saying that Vegas “gets” Taylor Hicks...

Perhaps because he stays true to the Vegas traditions of live entertainment in the best of ways!

Viva Las Vegas!

There is much more "coolness" to Taylor's show at Bally's! See what Vegas “gets” and what a host of followers know: Taylor Hicks at Bally’s Indigo Lounge is musical magic!

Photo: Thanks to Martin Martinez of Bally's for a great capture of Taylor Hicks and the Band!

“musically brilliant” quote: @Lanaesgifts via Twitter; “cool little spot” quote: @JohnnyKats via Twitter;
Next (probably): Another look at the Vegas Gig...musings, moments and possibly the mundane!