Taylor Hicks and the Hoff: Singing for the Gulf Coast
This post and all accompanying photographs are kindly provided by NolaMar who attended the taping of “The Gulf is Back” at Mississippi Coast Coliseum on Aug 17. (Click on photos to see larger versions.) The television special is scheduled to air on the CW network on Aug 27 at 8 pm EST.
As soon as it was announced that Taylor Hicks was going to be involved in the filming of a TV special over in Biloxi, MS in support of the Gulf coast I knew I wanted to attend. I live in New Orleans, and this whole region from TX to FL has been hit very hard by the oil spill this summer. Taylor has been involved from the start in doing what he can to help the people of the coast. It was very heartening to learn that he and some other regional artists were coming together for such a great cause.
The day before the taping I made the 3.5 hour round trip to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum to pick up the tickets, and then back again the next day for the actual show. I was proud and excited that I would be a part of the audience for this event, and also very excited to be seeing Taylor Hicks perform live for the first time in almost a year. The crowd lining up outside was a good mix of all ages, from kids to elderly. It looked like a lot of them were country music fans: a good percentage wore cowboy hats.
As I entered the auditorium, I was awed by the massive set. The lights were absolutely stunning. It made me realize that this was the “real deal,” a real live professional television production, and it was being done very well. I was able to get a great seat in the 3rd row. The only instrument on the stage was a beautiful piano. Technicians, stage hands, and camera crew were everywhere. As the rest of the crowd came in they were encouraged by the crew to move down in the side bleachers, and up closer on the floor, to fill in any empty seats. My best guess is that there were 2,000 – 3,000 people in attendance. The man in charge spoke to the audience and told us what to expect during the filming. Among other things, we were asked to not drink our beverages or exit during the performances.
The production manager came out next, made introductions, and talked about the crew’s experience with filming music shows for television. I heard “CMAs,” “Golden Globes,” and other well known musical and Hollywood events. He also discussed the program’s mission to support Gulf coast residents, and how proud everyone was of their resilience and fortitude through this crisis. He seemed to genuinely empathize with the hardships that the people of the coast have suffered because of the oil spill. I think that most in the audience were touched; I know I was.
We were then coached in appropriate TV audience responses – clapping, laughing, and looking like we were having the time of our life. It was fun! The cameras filmed us all the while, to be edited into the show in all the right places. Then the real show began.
David Hasselhoff, the show’s host, came out to film an opening number. Five, four, three, two, one… applause…. I know Hoff as an actor of course, but had no idea what to expect musically from him. With his pianist and recorded music, he gave a very expressive rendition of the song “Feeling Good.” He came down from the stage and dramatically ended the song only 10 feet from where I sat. (Imagine a Vegas/Elvis type moment.) Let me just say that the man has NOT lost his good looks with age. No, he has not, not at all.
Catching me totally off guard, they announced Taylor Hicks immediately after David Hasselhoff finished his number. Taylor came onstage with his black Taylor guitar to much enthusiastic applause. In spite of feeling kind of addle-brained for a second, I noticed two things while he waited for the film crew to cue him – what he was wearing and how incredible he looked, especially on the two huge jumbotrons. He had on a dark blue button down shirt and black jeans and looked younger in person than he ever does in videos or pictures. And amazingly handsome. And like a star who belonged on that stage. His smiles were to die for. Taylor performed Seven Mile Breakdown, accompanied
by his own guitar and recorded music. He sounded really fabulous! Taylor’s live voice always stuns me and this was no exception. Seven Mile Breakdown is a fun, foot stomping song and was perfect for this crowd. The audience really got into it. Everyone that I could see was moving and clapping, and loud cheers erupted both times he said “Mississippi,” and again when he played the harp. I listened and took pictures while he blew everybody away. He seemed genuinely happy to be there and appreciative of the long, thunderous applause.
After he finished SMB the makeup crew came out and blotted off the sweat and reapplied some TV makeup. (You could hear the audience chuckling every time they did this between performances.) They took his guitar and then he sang his other single from “The Distance” CD, “What’s Right Is Right.” By this time Taylor’s voice was doing things to my brain that just made me block everything else out. Again, his voice just amazed me. I listened & watched and snapped more pictures, but I was too thrilled by his
performance to notice the audience’s reaction during the song. I know there was more enthusiastic applause for him when he was finished, and again, more wonderful smiles from Taylor. I was left wanting more of course, but felt very happy – he had looked and sounded fabulous, and I had pictures.
Aside from Taylor, my favorite performance came from Lonestar, probably because their sound is more southern rock/pop than country. Fun moments included watching the camera on wheels zipping at high speed across the stage during the performances, and seeing the drummer sprayed with hairspray between songs.
The whole taping was a fun and interesting experience. I think that anyone who watches the show will be impressed; it will be a wonderful tribute to the residents of the Gulf coast, featuring good music from some artists who are native to the area. I am eagerly anticipating Taylor Hicks’ appearance at Ft. Walton Beach later this month, and hoping for a club show closer to my home with the full Taylor Hicks band sometime in the near future. I’ll be there!