Taylor Hicks Walks the Line at Avalon Theatre
by Richard Uznanski, Louise Uznanski, Holley Dey
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” explained Taylor from the stage. “It’s a song we do often, and do well.” Before launching into the band’s cover of “Gonna Move”, he paused to note that “ain’t” is southern for ”isn’t”, and then wondered aloud which word he should use. Does the Avalon Theatre lie north or south of the Mason-Dixon Line?
Well, I’m fixin’ to tell you that Easton, Maryland lies nearly on and just south of the Mason-Dixon line. Baby, that ain’t no lie. Truth is that the Theatre lies close enough to the boundary that the Mason-Dixon line ran right through the Taylor Hicks Band as well. That’s right; the bandleader, the man on sax and the man on keys hail from Birmingham, Alabama and represent the core of the Taylor Hicks Band. The three members of the Jamie McLean Band who provided support on guitar/vocals, bass and drums call New York their home. The band backing Taylor Hicks at the Avalon straddled the line north to south, bagels to biscuits, rock to country soul.
The audience was even more diverse. When asked how far they had traveled to see the American Idol winner perform on St. Patrick’s Day, some had come from California, Florida, Missouri, and Toronto, Canada. Those without reserved seats stood in a line that stretched from the lobby down the sidewalk in front of the Theatre, waiting and hoping for a stage-side view. Six years following his television run, Taylor Hicks continues to enjoy a loyal fanbase that on Saturday night cheered his arrival to the stage, his new song, and well, his T-shirt.
That new song has a country flavor. Composed by Victoria Shaw and Candy Parton, “Teach Me to Dance” offers a straightforward melody line that allows Hicks the room to stretch, showcasing the sincerity and soul in his voice. The love song portrays a gentle, self effacing courtship with lyrics that admit “Sometimes I can’t get out of my own way, sometimes I can’t find the right words to say” but “I could waltz into heaven in working man’s shoes, if you teach me to dance with you”. Written with a waltz time signature, the young bride and groom who posed for pictures outside the Avalon could easily have shared a first dance to this tune. On Saturday evening the arrangement featured Jamie McLean on guitar and vocal support; it was a winning blend.
I suppose that the onstage fusion of two bands with different styles could have led to a musical skirmish, but instead the evening featured a comfortable truce between the crisp, cool play of the north and the more flamboyant tone of southern clubs and honky-tonks. By the end of the evening that truce had been cemented, and all six musicians combined for a rousing encore rendition of the Jamie McLean Band song “Country Living” with Jamie and Taylor alternating on lead vocals. Other standout songs during the set included “What’s Right Is Right”, the lead single from Mr. Hicks’ 2009 album, The Distance, “I Live on a Battlefield”, featuring a guitar solo from Jamie McLean, and “Maybe You Should”, co-written by songwriter and former football player Mike Reid, again featuring Taylor’s heartfelt vocals.
Before joining Taylor on stage in support of his headlining set, the Jamie McLean Band played several songs to open the evening. Most of those were drawn from the Band’s most recent album Sunday Morning, including “Open Up”, “Summertime on Main Street”, and “I Been Low”. While many in the audience were unfamiliar with the Band’s music when the set began, they were on their feet at set’s end to applaud a truly rocking performance.
For more on Taylor Hicks, including tour dates and up-to-date news, visit his official website here. For more on the Jamie McLean Band, including tour dates and music, go here. On April 27, 2o12 the Jamie McLean Band will support Taylor Hicks in concert at Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, Connecticut. For tickets to what is sure to be an excellent show north of the Mason-Dixon line, go here.
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Taylor Hicks with Ben Mars (Jamie McLean Band) on bass
Excerpt of some fine guitar work by Jamie McLean on Battlefield
Taylor Hicks performing What’s Right Is Right
That’s not all! A gallery of many more photographs from the March 17 Avalon Theatre concert follows. To see additional photographs of the event, including the opening and headlining sets, as well as the new Taylor Hicks 2012 tour T-shirt, click the gallery.