Taylor Hicks on Tour: Living on Heart and Soul
Article and photos contributed by Louise/4Tay who travelled to Taylor’s 6 shows that opened his tour in the Northeast.
Twenty-two cities, one month on the road, 7 band members and 3 band assistants on one long, blue Prevost tour bus. Venues to book, openers to schedule, driving routes that criss-cross the East for 10 days in July and August to kick-off the tour. These are the makings of a tour for Taylor Hicks and his band as they hit the road for cities across the country. Taylor’s tour opened in New York City at the Highline Ballroom. The show was marked by the band’s incredibly high energy and ecstatic fan enthusiasm for live Taylor music. The band stretched and gyrated itself into a set that became memorable for it’s incredible list of original and cover tunes. The Bulletproof finale served it’s purpose for Taylor and his band as they laid it all out there as they ended their first night of the tour. Taylor has commented that with this tour he is ‘seeing what’s out there.’ With Taylor Hicks, you never know what he has in store but fans also know it is something they do not want to miss. Taylor promised some ‘bad-ass’ on his latest tour and he and the band delivered that and more; they delivered the Heart of their being. (The Band: Keyboards: Brian Less; Guitar: Sam Gunderson; Wind instruments: Jeff Lopez; Drums: Leif Bondarenko; Bass: Brandon Peeples; Congas: Matt Kimbrell)
Shifting now to the scenic bluffs and ocean views that describe the coastal city of Ogunquit, Maine, fans did not question the trip to this quaint town some 400 miles from New York City. The anticipation of seeing Taylor in this setting could only mean one thing: Soul. How to fit the band into the luxurious venue that is Jonathan’s Restaurant? It did take a few shoe horns to get the band onstage just right. After Javier opened for the Taylor Hicks Band, Taylor and company took to the stage before an over capacity audience. Tight arrangements of music, instruments and people resulted in what could only be described as a Southern soulful show of musical talent that brought the sold-out audience to it’s feet in ovation. By the time Taylor left the stage, the room erupted from the glee they felt for a show that exceeded their expectations in this charming Maine town. The heart of New York came to meld with the soul of Ogunquit and the fans left the venue saying “where does this guy appear next? I want to see him again!”
And the wheels of the bus go round and round………Load ’em up and drive to Virginia on the 3rd stop on the tour at the historic blues joint, The Birchmere in Alexandria. Taylor made New York his own and gained a whole new audience in Maine. Returning to The Birchmere where he appeared during his 2007 tour following the release of his first major label CD, Taylor Hicks, Taylor maneuvered the bus and his music back into the fabric of this soul and blues venue. Opening for Taylor was his good friend Clay Connor. Then Taylor bounded onto the stage, filled with the vibe of a place he knew and loved to perform in. From the first note to the last note, Taylor made his way through the best set of tunes, in my opinion, of the tour so far. Rock, blues, harp, soul, guitar riffs, dancing and funny banter filled the night. Taylor and his band brought New York and Maine heart and soul to Virginia and the audience was the better for it. It Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody to rock and groove to Taylor Hicks.
Three shows, three cities, three different vibes. What can we expect from the Crocodile Rock Cafe in Allentown, Pa.? It is a venue catering to rock bands and promoting new music. Knowing that we would see new music before Taylor took the stage and that it would probably be mostly hard rock, we were a little apprehensive about Taylor’s blues and soul set. Not to worry! Taylor became a rock star that night. He fit right into the mood of the night. Hit them hard, add some smokin’ guitar riffs and get the crowd going. The bands that opened for Taylor were all in attendance. And so were their fans. They wanted to see what this successful blues musician would bring to their home venue. From gospel to rock, from country to rhythm and blues, the fans of all genres made Taylor their own. Lining up after the show to meet Taylor were new fans of great music who realized they had just witnessed a man who tours because it is in his heart to keep the music going.
They say the third time is the charm. Three shows in a row, that is. The Mexicali Live Blues Club in Teaneck, New Jersey is an intimate setting with a twinkling back curtain and stage lighting to make a photographer’s heart thump. Taylor’s voice was never better. The band was one with their leader, Taylor. Solos were performed by Musical Director and keyboardist Brian Less, guitarist Sam Gunderson and flutist Jeff Lopez. Leif laid the background of rhythm and rock while Matt and Brandon provided the netting that meshed the band into a genre that became their own. Never more relaxed but driven by the music, Taylor left the stage with the audience crowded at his feet to the sounds of Takin’ it To The Streets. Yes, he has taken it to the streets and it is in this venue where all of the heart and soul continued to drive the wheels on the bus to new destinations.
The last of six shows in the East, Taylor’s bus of bad ass music made it’s way to the Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Md. Which band would perform? The rock band or blues or soul or even Latin? Taylor’s set ran the gamut. From this intimate setting, Taylor and his band made the most of their time on stage. Hold on To Your Love was tagged with Sunny. A memorable moment among moments so far on the tour. 19 was a tribute to our military men and women with Jeff Lopez providing the sweet sounds of Dixie. Sam rocked out his baby blue guitar on Battlefield. Leif, always looking to ramp up the tempo, made Seven Mile Breakdown a smash-up on stage. Brandon is an animated, rock star bassist who delivers every night. Brian moves from keyboard to organ while leading the band with the adeptness of a magician. Matt whooshes and taps his underlying beat, especially in the Latin numbers. The audience saw it all and close-up. Taylor was never happier.
The tour travels next to the mid-west and the west and then ends in the south. The progress made in the first six shows proves to this writer and hopefully to Taylor that if you have the heart, determination, grit and guts to put it all out there night after night, living on Heart and Soul can take you anywhere. With this tour, all of these adjectives apply to Taylor and his band of musicians. The question is, do you want to miss a show when on any given night you might see heart or soul or blues, rock or country or a combination of these vibes delivered by The Taylor Hicks Band on this Bad Ass Tour? This writer travelled to six shows in the East and I will miss seeing the Heart and Soul I know he will deliver until the last note is played on the last night of the tour.