Taylor Hicks Tour: Biloxi Dirty Dog Delta Blues
In Pt. 3: Taylor Hicks finishes the Blues Patrol march through the Mississippi Delta.
All text and photos provided by Louise4Tay. Click on the image to enlarge.
“Who here remembers the dirty dog? The dirty dog? Yeah, you remember the dirty dog. …..Uh, huh, I think I just made that up.”
Taylor may have made up that dance but the music he played at the Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi on February 26th was true blues and funk. The blues were down and dirty as they could be given that there were families and family members in attendance. While it was cool and misty outside in the Gulf coast night, inside the venue the concert goers went from cool to warm to red hot thanks to the reverberating beat of funk and blues provided by Taylor and the band.
A raucous crowd welcomed the singer on stage as Brian Less tickled the piano keys and Taylor struck the beat on the cowbell to Compared To What. More cowbell! could be heard from the crowd! The honky tonk started early and furiously when Back to Louisiana began to ring out in the venue thanks to Brian Less’s furious intro. The set list had remained the same from the previous two nights but the flavor had changed. The dirty dog laid down his tracks and made the audience patrol for the blues. Responding during and after every number, catcalls, whistles, hoots and hollers could be heard in this classy venue on the Mississippi beach.
The passion was evident as Taylor dove into The Deal, an original tune from his independent release, Under the Radar. It was a nice segue to the more intense, rowdy and gut wrenching love song Battlefield. Sam Gunderson has perfected the dancing steps and riffs with Taylor and the fever pitch created by the duo makes you wonder, what battlefield? This song is pure funk house rock-a-billy blues.
Latin has a place in the down and dirty blues and Taylor’s original tune Hold On To Your Love blends Leif Bondarenko’s drums, Brian Less’s piano and Taylor’s guitar until you can feel the castanets clicking in your hands.
In a falsetto voice, Taylor tags ‘no golden rule, no method, no teacher’ into HOTYL along with ‘find someone to love’. As Sam strips the song down to the bone on guitar Jeff Lopez’s sax lays the groundwork for Taylor as he scats the last lines of the song. It was an unexpected Latin tune from a man who says he did not get a whole lot of Latin music growing up in Birmingham, Alabama. No worries. With this song he has made his mark in Latin music, too.
Just To Feel That Way brings back memories of Taylor’s 2007 solo tour. The first release from the Taylor Hicks CD, it was instantly recognizable by the large contingent of hard core and casually familiar fans of Taylor’s music. Taylor’s voice was strong and clear on a song that seems virtually impossible to sing. But, as Jeff Lopez lead the way out of the song with his sweet sax, Brandon Peeples strummed the bass and made us remember how it felt to ‘walk on the wire.’
Interjecting some dirty dog humor came during the introduction to What’s Right Is Right, a Simon Climie tune off of Taylor’s second solo CD, The Distance. Everyone fell for the dirty dog joke and as he tagged What’s Right Is Right with Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey, the laughs turned to hoots, hollers and oh yeahs! ’The beeezzzz, listen for the beeeezzz’ spoken into the harp mic, preceded a long harp solo that made you feel like you were going to church.
Love the One You’re With made the audience look to their right and look to their left. Satisfied with the one they were with, the catcalls just got louder in agreement. Jeff Lopez starred in the next number, Nineteen. The audience began standing up and singing along and Jeff is the main reason. The sax becomes the soldier lost in a faraway war. The audience respects that and all are on their feet and cheering the band and Taylor for their patriotic music played from the heart.
The set list then moved to the Stones’ Can You Hear Me Knocking. A staple from the 2010 summer tour, this song gives the band street cred with the rockers in the seats. And they do it proud! Taylor, by now a virtuoso on the organ, climbs on board to accompany the band on Why Can’t We Live Together? A surprise move when he did it in Pensacola the first night of the tour, it remains a refreshing rendition as the band and Taylor improve with each playing.
Donna Hall of Wet Willie fame came on the stage and brought the house down singing a duet with Taylor on Seven Mile Breakdown. Tagged with ‘roadhouse, Gulf coast, swamp music’, the duet was sassy, raucous and fired up leading into tags of Valley Road and Running on Empty. Then Donna was on her way and Taylor left to change and get ready for the encore.
Clay Connor brought out the ‘acoustic’ stool and the crowd ran to the stage from their seats. In his new T-shirt, Taylor introduced a song he wrote when he was 19 and hurt by love. The Fall is a favorite encore in small, intimate venues and in the Beau Rivage, the song retained it’s intimacy. It was just Taylor, his guitar and the crowd at his feet feeling his teenage pain.
Bulletproof got the audience on their feet and dancing to the beat. The song ended and to our surprise, 1:40 hours had passed since the opening notes of Compared to What. It was Mississippi Masala all right. Dirty dogs, roadhouse blues, rhythm and soul and a little Latin rounded out the night. The band left the stage and Taylor greeted the longest line of fans waiting to see him and talk to him that I have ever witnessed. After the funk and blues had been left on the stage for the night, Taylor went on to sit-in with a casino floor bands. He then went next door to keep the Delta blues alive in his soul by playing late into the night, howling at the moon.
After each Taylor Hicks show, fans comment that it was the best he’s ever done. In the case of the three shows Taylor did in the South, this opinion was repeated at the end of each night’s show. There was something different and better about the shows that was evident from the first note of Compared to What at the Vinyl Music Hall. Whatever it was that made the fans think in such a way just got stronger with each performance. By the time the Beau Rivage show was history, we once again declared that this was the best Taylor Hicks we had ever seen. Until the next time.
In the line we passed three young fans with signs and badges and headbands that said ‘HICKS’. They met Taylor earlier in the day and were thrilled to see him perform live on stage. I wonder if Taylor will take them up on their offer ‘will you marry me?’.
Next on the horizon is the Ride 2 Recovery Benefit Concert in San Marcos, Texas on March 28th. More tour dates are being added and if you want to capture any version of Taylor Hicks, you will want to get your tickets early and get on board the Blues Patrol.