Taylor Hicks in Atlantic City: Review & Preview with Photos & Video
by Louise Uznanski and Holley Dey @2013 OnTapBlog all rights reserved
“Don’t think that somebody doesn’t read their tweets,” he said, “because they do!” @taylorhicks then motioned to the audience and a young woman with a cowboy hat squealed with excitement as she was beckoned to the stage. Kristen Campbell describes country soul as her genre of choice and counts American Idol winner Taylor Hicks among her musical influences. The singer-songwriter’s pre-show tweets were enthusiastic and to the point. “To sing harmony vocals on “Seven Mile Breakdown”, she pleaded, “would be a dream come true.” Her spirited performance and bright, genuine smile added sweet spice to the rockin’ finale, and @kaoskrissy was a hit with the Beach Bar crowd.
That crowd had gathered for a rare East coast appearance by Las Vegas headliner Hicks who is scheduled two weekends at Bally’s Atlantic City this summer, July 18-20 and July 25-27. He performs Thursday through Saturday at 10 p.m. in the Blue Martini, as well as Friday and Saturday afternoons at 1 p.m. at the Bikini Beach Bar. On the first Friday afternoon, Taylor’s set was as cool and confident as the day was steamy, a mellow contrast to his hard-driving opening night performance in the Blue Martini, the latter prompting whoops and hollers of party-ready approval.
Asked to describe his East coast shows, Taylor promised a mixture of his own original music, cover songs that he performed on American Idol and a few Las Vegas show tunes. It’s an accurate, if matter-of-fact description of a set of time-honored music, songs with substance that enjoy enduring popularity. It is what Hicks does with those familiar tunes that brings a unique flavor and an element of surprise to his live show.
Take for example, the classic Elvis tune “In the Ghetto”, one of the few songs shared in common between Hicks’ Beach Bar and Blue Martini sets. Elvis never performed the song quite this way. Seamlessly integrated into Taylor’s rendition were snippets of other songs including “Yes We Can Can” (Pointer Sisters), “Hot Fun in the Summertime’ (Sly & the Family Stone) and even “Movin’ on Up”, the theme song from long running sitcom The Jeffersons. When the first strains of “Movin’ on Up” were played, there was an immediate response from the Blue Martini faithful who began to sing along, proving yet again that we know what we know, and dang it, we like what we know!
Among the standouts from Thursday evening’s opening show was a cover of “On and On” (Stephen Bishop), a choice that simply fit, showcasing the warmth and depth of Hicks’ voice in a more subtle, textured performance than expected in the boisterous bar setting. Also popular both Thursday and Friday were “Going Back to Louisiana” (Delbert McClinton cover) and “Seven Mile Breakdown” (Hicks original), two songs that called forth blistering solos from the Soul Patrolman’s harmonica.
The audience was engaged early in both sets by Taylor’s relaxed manner and comfortable chatter about his American Idol run and post Idol experience. Introducing “Love the One You’re With”, Hicks recalled a chance meeting with Stephen Stills in the men’s locker room at a 2007 golf tournament in Burbank. The two discussed Stills’ music and its flexibility, the melodies open to variation and interpretation. Taylor leveraged that flexibility to add a few phrases from “Everyday People” (Sly & the Family Stone) and “Fire on the Bayou” (The Meters) to Thursday’s version of the classic song.
It’s a history lesson, I tell you! It’s also good music from talented, practiced musicians who clearly enjoy their craft. On this limited East coast engagement, Taylor Hicks is accompanied by keys player and musical director Brian Less and guitarist Cody Farris, both of whom shine in solos that are interspersed throughout the set, and who contribute to a sound that is larger and fuller than might be expected from a trio.
If Atlantic City is within reach, you might well enjoy a ride on the Soul train next weekend. Just make sure that you watch for your stop; once on board this train, you may not want to get off….
Photo gallery and video – Taylor Hicks at Bally’s Atlantic City:
Bally’s Bikini Beach Bar
Kristen Campbell joins Taylor Hicks onstage on Seven Mile Breakdown.
Taylor Hicks, Kristen Campbell: Seven Mile Breakdown