Taylor Hicks Mines Gold Strike Blues
Part 2 of 3: Text and all photos contributed by Louise4Tay.
…..Running on Empty, runnin’ on, runnin’ blind, ……..runnin’ into the sun but I’m runnin’ behind”.
For the Taylor Hicks Band and their fans it is Day 2 of the tour. Whether flying, driving or by bus, everyone makes their way to the open fields of Tunica, Mississippi, home of the Gold Strike Casino. Rising from the former cotton fields south of Memphis, the Gold Strike and neighboring casinos keep company among the open stretches. Otherwise there is nothing more than the open road. It took nine hours to drive there from Pensacola; the fans and the band were running nearly empty before the show filled them up again.
The set began as it had the night before with Brian Less playing the keys and Taylor Hicks entering the stage banging on the cowbell to the beat of Compared To What. The sight was received by the sold out, nearly 800 member audience with whistles and shoutouts of “Soul Patrol” and “I love you, Taylor”. Back to Louisiana allowed the audience to hoot and holler some more as he reached down in his gut for the long, deep note that introduces his pain from losing his girl. It was at this point that the audience became his best friend.
The hootin’ and hollerin’ of the crowd was loose and loud in this honky tonk number and Taylor and the band brought the house down when it was over. Leading right into The Deal, some may have thought the slow pace of the song was a downer compared to Back to Louisiana’s foot stompin’ heat but then, the voice filled the air. Crystal clear, rich and bluesy, it was at this critical point that a slightly inebriated man started to call out something he felt in his heart. ‘Sun shinin’ and it’s rainin’, no better way to describe my feel,” then BLUES PATROL rings out into a silent theater. People yelled Yes! Blues Patrol. The Deal continued and ended and then with the next song, Love the One You’re With, a repeat of the same phrase, BLUES PATROL, only this time the phrase began to echo throughout the crowd. No one argued. Taylor heard it and nodded his head. That’s right, sir. We’re here to play you the blues.
Pleading with his lost love, “baby please don’t go”, the crowd became blues brothers to the band. And to Taylor. The harp came out to play during What’s Right is Right breaking off just long enough to tag ‘no method, no teacher, no golden rule’. More bluesy harp playing sealed the deal for the audience. They were there for and got honky tonk, blues and soul in an hour set delivered by the Alabama native.
Taylor’s friend requested Living For The City and he accommodated the request. The crowd remembered this song from American Idol and got a special treat when Taylor danced two different numbers: the scuffling fast foot action dance he started at WorkPlay in Birmingham, and the helicopter 360 he perfected on the Idol stage.
Nineteen proved to be the sentimental favorite of the evening with the crowd on their feet just as Jeff Lopez started his Dixie tag at the end of the song. It brought a tear to many an eye in the mostly Southern audience. Next up, the Stones! Can’t You Hear Me Knocking brought out the rock and roll in Sam Gunderson, the lead guitarist. Gettin’ down with Taylor made the audience dance in their seats. The bongos by David Keith and the sax of Jeff Lopez melded like fine wine and cheese. It was a rock triumph for the band.
Why Can’t We Live Together brought Taylor to the organ for the second night in a row. Our seats were right in front of the organ and seeing Taylor play with confidence and flare brought smiles to our faces. The arrangement was tight tonight and the star-lit curtains made it seem like we were in a cloud. The audience may have felt that this was something routine; little did they know that more treats were coming, and that the AI winner could do more than they ever suspected.
Seven Mile Breakdown combined roadhouse blues and southern rock. Midway through the song, Taylor brings out the harmonica, blows it sweet and funky and then slides into a tag that tears at any band’s heart. Running on Empty, a Jackson Browne song, that talks about having the road weary blues and trying to carry on into the sun. After traveling to Florida and then Memphis, those blues would either bring the whole place down or it would bolster everyone to run on. Rousing the people out of their seats, Seven Mile Breakdown ended with dancing, harp playing, bongo playing, piano fingering, drums pounding and the guitar strings smoking.
Takin’ It To The Streets might have been just an encore but it was also a message. We’re hitting the streets and carrying the Mississippi blues and roadhouse runs onto Biloxi. Come along for the ride, Blues Patrol, because it gets better and better with Taylor Hicks and his band.
A final bow and we’re off and running………
We think the audience came that night to be entertained. We know they left with more than that. They carried with them the lasting impression of a band and a band leader who can patrol for the blues and soul in any song. That man was right. We’re on a Blues Patrol.
Part 3: Biloxi, MS and the Beau Rivage recap and photos. Come back here and look for it soon.