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Concert Review: Taylor Hicks Live at The Triple Door, Seattle, Washington, 5/27/2009

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Taylor Hicks is currently touring the U.S. as the Teen Angel in Broadway’s Grease. Hicks is also doing a “shadow tour,” playing clubs in the cities Grease brings him to. I had the opportunity to see Hicks perform one of these club dates, May 27th, at the Triple Door in Seattle. Hicks proved he is a first class musician and showman as he led his five piece band through songs from his new album The Distance, a few of his earlier originals, and a couple of surprise covers.

For anyone wanting to see Taylor Hicks the bandleader, guitarist, harmonica player, and singer these shadow tour shows are the place to do it. There is a focused intensity to Hicks as a musician that was not fully apparent when he was the winning contestant on American Idol. He spends less time dancing and more time focusing on leading the band through tight, energetic renditions of the songs. Taking the stage only a short time after his Grease curtain call, Hicks was bristling with energy and launched into the set with only a quick hello to the audience.

The show opened with the title track of The Distance and then went into the first single from the album, “What’s Right Is Right.” While I found the studio version of “What’s Right Is Right” to be a bit on the bland side, this live version was a different story. This take was raw and Hicks’ soulful singing on a raved up ending took the song to a completely different level.

Another song getting this treatment was the Paul Pena classic “Gonna Move.” It appeared on his post-Idol debut self-titled album. While a favorite of mine, that studio version was somewhat of a disappointment. The arrangement was a light smooth soul sound that was kind of boring. It was nothing like the live versions I had heard recordings of Hicks doing in the past. This version was. Hicks upped the blues element of the song, commanding his band to “swing it” at one point – which they did. Like all great bandleaders, Hicks is able to get exactly what he wants from his musicians at a moment’s notice.

Hicks performed his first few songs sans harmonic prompting someone in the audience to call out for it. Hicks immediately accommodated the request, grabbed a harmonica and called for the band to play Ray Charles’ “Hide Nor Hair” (the song appeared as a bonus track on the Wal-Mart version of The Distance. Other highlights included Hicks’ fine acoustic rhythm work on his early original composition “The Deal.” He delivered an impassioned vocal on “I Live On A Battlefield.” Hicks also performed a solo version of “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” which was recorded as a duet with Elliott Yamin on The Distance.

The best moments in the show were abundant during the last two songs. Hicks closed the set with an epic version of “Seven Mile Breakdown,” his latest single. He took the song to its full southern blues rock potential with a rocking jam coda that showcased all the musicians. The encore was the biggest surprise. After a few minutes of encouragement from the audience, Hicks and the band took the stage for a soulful rendition of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” (though the arrangement was based on Billy Preston’s version). Hicks led the audience in providing backing vocals for the extended ending jam that eventually closed the show. The song was a nice tribute to both Preston and Harrison.

The shadow tour is a must for any fan of Taylor Hicks. Opening for him at Triple Door was singer/songwriter Keri Noble, who played a set of songs with no accompaniment besides her own keyboard. Towards the end of her set, Noble mentioned she was present for Hicks’ soundcheck. “That guy can sing,” she told the crowd, “I mean, I knew he could – but he sings his ass off.” Hicks truly is in his element as a live performer.

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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.
  • Steve

    Sounds like one kicking show.

  • Louise

    Great, spot on review. Thanks for that. Taylor is best when he is performing live. I love his voice on his CDs but to appreciate the extensive talent Taylor possesses, seeing him live is the only way to see all that he has to offer. I was at the Triple Door and also saw Taylor at Ram’s Head in Annapolis, Md. He just keeps getting better and better all the time.
    Thanks again.
    Louise in NJ

  • Kim

    I was there. You are so right about him being in his element as a musician, band leader, and live performer. He puts on one hell of a show. The only thing that could have been better is if we didn’t have to be seated thoughout the show.

  • James

    Sounds like he is worth checking out. I’ll have to watch for shows in my area.

  • medolark

    “focused intensity to Hicks as a musician”

    That’s the same thing my son commented on.

    Taylor Hicks is a fantastic ‘live entertainer’. Enjoyed your review. You got it right on target. Ü

  • san

    You are so right, Sherry. I’ve seen Taylor Hicks on stage several times and “focused intensity as a musician” is the perfect review. His show is always different. Watch for more acoustic renditions in Detroit.

    Thanks for your review! Taylor is a musican heart and soul…every time, every show.

  • Kathleen

    I wish Taylor Hicks would come to Northern California! He is so awesome in concert. Taylor is one of the best to come out of American Idol because he is an accomplished musician, singer, songwriter and performer. Soul Patrol!

  • Mario L

    great reviewing of what sounded like a terrific concert

  • Giovanna

    I plan on seeing Taylor in Grease when it is in St. Louis next year and I am keeping my fingers crossed that he will do a shadow show there. I have seen him twice live in concert and it has been way too long since he was anywhere near me. Right now all I have is memories, but I am longing for the real thing!! There is nothing like Taylor Hicks live! Amazing performances.