Words/Photos/Video by Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog
© 2014 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved
The lights, the smoke, the incredibly talented band. The long lines of fans patiently waiting to secure a spot at the stage. And, the excitement of being at the hometown release party of Taylor’s new CD, ‘The Distance’. This was the scene in Birmingham five years ago today as Taylor Hicks took the WorkPlay Theatre stage on September 25th and 26th to capacity crowds. The fans and friends gathered in Birmingham found Taylor to be inexhaustible as he performed a full week as Teen Angel in the Broadway touring company of GREASE before stepping onto the WorkPlay stage.
The band was bound together by the piano play and musical direction of Brian Less and the smooth, blues-filled strings of guitarist Josh Smith. Keeping the beat was Leif Bondarenko on drums, Jay Smith on bongos and Jason Parker on bass. Jeff Lopez filled the air with his spiritual and soulful sax. Clay Connor directed the backstage details that made the shows run according to plan.
WorkPlay was a celebration of family, friends and fans. Family in the audience and high school and college friends in attendance made the atmosphere like a reunion. The fans traveled from all over the country. Charles Barkley from the NBA and Auburn was spotted in the crowd as were old friends of the band Bill Will and Zippy Dietrich. Making the night feel even more like a reunion was special guest and college mentor Billy Earl McClelland, trading riffs on the classic tune Dust My Broom; Ona Watson and his smooth duet on Woman’s Gotta Have It; the UAB Gospel Choir striding onto the stage singing behind a rousing New Found Freedom; and Wet Willie’s Donna Hall Foster finishing an encore with Taylor in his ‘Magic City’ commemorative t-shirt.
Maybe You Should was sung stripped down and spare while Once Upon A Lover and The Runaround and Seven Mile Breakdown were successful in getting the joint jumping. The Distance, the title song from the new CD, was performed as tight and solid as a title song could be. What’s Right Is Right was performed with the polish and intensity of the video version Taylor released with the new CD six months earlier.
After the shows were over, word spread fast about the set lists, the guests and the performances of extraordinary music and showmanship in Birmingham’s legendary music hall. The shows created a musical atmosphere of friends, family and fans so much so that when the word WorkPlay is mentioned, it still evokes such strong memories of the music and the performances that were seen and heard five years ago on those two nights in Birmingham.
Taylor Hicks sings New Found Freedom with UAB Gospel Choir. Video credit: lh1100
Taylor Hicks & Billy Earl McClelland WorkPlay Dust My Broom (partial video).
Taylor Hicks and guitarist Josh Smith duel it out with that chicken pickin’.
Maybe You Should