Taylor Hicks Finds His Groove in Las Vegas
by Holley Dey and Louise Uznanski
And so we learn the background behind Taylor Hicks’ song selection for Elvis week on American Idol. Seems that the judges and the contestants share conversation and an occasional smoke together during commercial breaks. On one of those breaks, Simon Cowell advised, “You should sing ‘In the Ghetto’.” Direction from the head judge held considerable weight, and with input from the show’s musical director, Taylor put his own spin on the King’s classic. The performance proved to be one of Hicks’ strongest of the competition and an audience favorite.
Last Saturday night in The Indigo room at Bally’s Las Vegas, Taylor sang “In the Ghetto” again, but it wasn’t the made for television version. It was the full song, “opened up and grooved out”, introduced by smooth saxophone and performed with feeling, all the verses and lyrics intact. The jazz influenced performance was again one of the strongest of the evening, and left the audience chatting in excited whispers.
His set list for Vegas is a combination of original compositions, songs the season 5 winner performed on “that show” and classic Las Vegas tunes. On Saturday evening, the crowd took to their feet to applaud a rocking performance of “Country Living”, written by Jamie McLean and performed with cheerful intensity by Hicks and McLean. The effortless delivery of lines including “I’m ready for some country living; make way for the old time religion” and the enthusiastic response of the audience suggest that Taylor and country music may prove a good fit, and that the last several months were well spent. The new Las Vegas headliner devoted his spring to writing country soul music in Nashville for an upcoming new album.
The audience was back on their feet to recognize a soulful performance of “Nineteen”, the story of a fallen soldier, and up yet again for the country rock tune “Seven Mile Breakdown”, a Hicks original. Also enjoyed were The Doobie Brothers/Michael McDonald classics “Minute by Minute” and “Takin’ It to the Streets”. Between smiling, laughing and the light aerobic exercise involved in repeatedly rising from their seats, the audience received a fair workout and an excellent show.
The six member band occupies a relatively small stage and produces a large sound at The Indigo. The available floor space limits movement and so any choreography that Hicks learned on Broadway will have to await a larger stage. Expect instead some vigorous hip shaking, jumping and stomping. Expect to enjoy it.
Expect as well to enjoy a band with solid skills. Jamie McLean on lead guitar and Brian Griffin on drums are two-thirds of the Jamie McLean Band, due to tour this fall behind recent releases Sunday Morning and Live at Gibson. Brian Less on keys is musical director for Taylor Hicks and a long time band member. Brian Gallagher on saxophone/flute has a long and successful recording and touring history and has played with Hicks since 2007. Joe Bergeron on percussion, who plays a mean triangle solo, is native to Las Vegas and a new band member. Mark Vanderpoel on bass is also new to the band and brings extensive Broadway experience to the mix. The band is tight as a group; their individual talents are highlighted and shine to advantage during the Bally’s show.
The first time the lights went out, the audience laughed. Tour assistant Clay Connor was at the switches and when the bandleader teased that the lighting direction was less than optimal, well, those lights were turned off entirely. When the stage lights went out for a second time, it was no laughing matter. The house lights came up, signaling an end to the two hour show, and leaving an audience that would happily do it all again, once more from the beginning.
Living for the City
Back to Louisiana
Maybe You Should
Takin’ It to the Streets
What’s Right Is Right
In the Ghetto
Minute by Minute
Seven Mile Breakdown
Viva Las Vegas
The following images were captured at the Saturday, July 28 Taylor Hicks show at The Indigo. For even more photographs of the evening’s performance, click the gallery link.
©2012 OnTapBlog All Rights Reserved