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Maybe You Should (I Did)

Posted on 01 October 2009

Good music bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart.  Brilliant music remains there forever.  With energy off the Richter scale, Taylor Hicks’ performances of September 25 and 26, 2009 at Birmingham’s WorkPlay Theatre stand in that latter, rarified category.  Compared to those concerts, this review will be flimsy. Words cannot match the live gigs, the best I’ve ever been blessed to experience in my long history as a music geek.  So I’ll just pull a Pat Benatar and hit it with my best shot.


Kaleidoscoping between playful little boy, the guy you’d like to knock back a cold one with, and the most dedicated of musicians, Hicks created a riveting, don’t blink or you’ll miss it stage presence.  Rockin’, bluesy, jazzy, soulful, and more, he deftly balanced freeform jam with structure, pulling selections from three albums (The Distance. his eponymous CD, and Early Works) and interspersing them with little snippets of gems like Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey and full covers such as The Meters’ Hey, Pocky Way and The Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down.  The entire set list escapes me and I make no apologies; I was having an out of body experience.


Incredibly powerful and alternately tender, Taylor’s high pipes bled no-holds-barred rockers (Seven Mile Breakdown and I Live on a Battlefield) into the pretty, hopeful The Deal, the lush Latin-inflected Once Upon a Lover, Runaround, which nails a driving beat to a tale of deception, the profound and understated Nineteen, and Maybe You Should, a quiet little killer that made me wish Hicks had twisted the knife deeper into my heart.  As impossible as it seemed for Taylor to top himself, he did just that Saturday night with the phenomenally rousing New Found Freedom, replete with a robed gospel choir from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  At the risk of blaspheming, this last number was a religious experience: an inspiration for anyone who’s ever been kicked in the butt, dusted himself off, and emerged tempered in steel.


Gyrating faster than the Energizer Bunny and suddenly quiescent, the singer-songwriter-arranger-instrumentalist dripped sweat like an air conditioner on max, his face morphing under the spots from pain to delight and every nuance in between.  Swinging from acoustic to electric guitar to harp (harmonica), he ran me over like a locomotive and resurrected me at will.  The instruments he played best, however, were my heart strings — and judging from the reaction of the audience en masse in his native Birmingham theatre, their cardiac organs as well.  The take-no-prisoners Hicks is a unique talent:  an artist and entertainer who knows the difference between the two entities and who honors them both.  He is also the captain of his own ship, the independent label Modern Whomp Records.


It would be patently unjust to exclude mention of the fine musicians who rode the blissful roller coaster with the accomplished Taylor Hicks.  These include:


Gifted pianist/organist Brian Less.  Musical heir to Jerry Lee Lewis, Mr. Less’ hands should be bronzed – no, gilded; they fly maniacally, delicately, and perfectly over the keys.


Funky sax/flute player extraordinaire, Jeff Lopez, who sometimes blows two horns simultaneously, and to perfection!


Lead guitarist Josh Smith of the exquisitely hot, bluesy, hurts-so-good licks.


Authoritative rhythm was driven by drummer Leif Bondarenko, percussionist Jay Smith, and bassist Jay Parker.


Donna Hall lent her lovely backup vocals to the set.


Surprise guests included Billy Earl McClelland, a blistering blues axe man who blew me into next week, and Ona Watson, celebrated jazz musician who joined the leader of the band for a hot-cool cover of Bobby Womack’s Woman Got To Have It.


If you have the chance to catch Taylor Hicks live as he tours nationally, take this advice to heart: run, do not walk. A ticket will buy you an unforgettable, uplifting musical experience unmatched, in my estimation, by any other. 

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40 Responses to “Maybe You Should (I Did)”

  1. hickifino says:

    Honest review! Words can’t capture the Taylor Hicks-generated electricity and excitement! The band was fabulous with Brian Less on keys and Josh Smith on guitar as stand-outs. Packed house filling the floor and balcony sometimes dancing (Seven Mile Breakdown), sometimes standing quietly entranced (Maybe You Should). His tribute to our troops, Nineteen, moved the audience to a group-sway, some waving glow sticks in time to the music. No two performances alike! You don’t see Taylor Hicks; you EXPERIENCE Taylor Hicks!

  2. Gio says:

    Thanks for the review. It’s appreciated as I couldn’t be there in person for this concert (have been to three Taylor Hicks concerts with my wife). From what I’ve seen live and heard on recordings, Taylor is a great showman and a great musician.

  3. sls says:

    You’re right! Some people can hit notes on a musical scale, but not many can touch your soul with sound – and that’s exactly what Taylor Hicks does. And only discerning music fans open themselves up enough to let that happen.

    Kudos, Taylor

  4. StillTheSame says:

    This was the BEST review I have ever read about Taylor Hicks…You are a fabulous writer….I was not able to attend, but after reading, I sure felt like I was there!…You got it all right, no one does what he does, no one….

  5. pboyers says:

    OMG – you were there and YOU GOT HIM!! Your review sent me right back to Birmingham…… the best two night of music and Hicks I have ever experienced! You nailed this one. I drove 14 hours each way to see Taylor last weekend and it was worth every mile! Still rockin’ out to his music!


  6. TMW says:

    Hickifino said it best:

    “You don’t see Taylor Hicks; you EXPERIENCE Taylor Hicks!”

  7. juliegr says:

    Taylor Hicks is one enthralling entertainer. I continue to be amazed at the depth of his musical knowledge and the way he’s able to make the listener feel the music all the way from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet.

    Witnessing Taylor perform the encores on Saturday night (9/26/09) with the UAB Gospel Choir convinced me that there are still some unexpected treats in store for the uninitiated. New Found Freedom (written by Taylor himself) and My Sweet Lord (the Billy Preston version) definitely took the listeners “to church”. Fantastic and facinating at the same time.

  8. Carmine says:

    Great article with music to stir the soul

  9. Allison says:

    I totally agree with everything you said!Everybody should have a Taylor Hicks concert on their bucket list!There’s nobody that even comes close to being the entertainer he is.I’ll go see him every chance I get!

  10. Carolyn says:

    Thank you so much for this beautiful review and for providing this beautiful clip too. You captured the Taylor experience so well. Thank you! So glad you got to be there to witness this amazing concert and thanks for sharing it with us!

  11. WhompMe says:

    Thanks for such a beautiful review of Taylor’s WorkPlay shows. You express my feelings so well, feelings that I can’t put down as eloquently as you. I am still reeling from the experience of the Great Taylor Hicks and WorkPlay.

  12. anne says:

    You hit the nail on the head. These two shows were absolutely incredible. Thank you for putting into words exactly what Taylor and his music is all about

  13. RagsQueen says:

    You found the words I was missing! Great review and oh so true!

  14. LaurenWilson says:

    Don’t even know what else to say that hasn’t been said extremely well here…only that everyone on that stage was GREAT and I am thankful to have been there both nights and to have partcipated in the Seven Mile Breakdown (it was almost a Seven Mile BreakDANCE!!) I DID hate being down before I ever loved being up…but I sure loved THAT…Battlefield…Maybe You Should…Runaround…definitely songs in the key of my life as well…the only thing left to do was say thank you…and I did. What more could I do for someone who helped me feel what I very much needed to feel? I could never even begin to do enough.

  15. scrabblequeenbe says:

    A great review. I’ve been watching the videos from the week-end. You put into words how I’m feeling. Thanks

  16. KittyBama says:

    Great review! You captured the feelings of all of us in attendance those nights. Taylor truly is one-of-a-kind and I hope more people will open their ears and hearts to him in the future.

  17. katja says:

    One of the best reviews I have have ever read about Taylor Hicks!

  18. lori hoell says:

    why oh why does he not release this song???? Most beautiful song I have heard in a long time!

  19. Sunny says:

    You just did Benetar proud, penning one of the most positive, yet still with apparent sincereity, reviews on Mr. Hicks I think I have ever read.

    I was to have attended the show on the 26th but fell ill and was not able to travel. Reading your review almost saddens me more than I have been; I have been in need of a Taylor Hicks live show. He is a powerful performer and a musician not provided nearly enough credit for his talents.

  20. Hope says:

    I’m not only in awe of Taylor’s live performance, but your ability to describe it as well. Thank you for your brilliant article on my favorite artist.

  21. jenniesaunt says:

    Wow! Your comments are a great match for the intensity of the musical experience of Taylor Hicks at WorkPlay in Birmingham, Alabama. My head was nodding like a bobble-head doll in agreement with all you wrote about those two joyful, rocking performances.
    Thank you so much!

  22. Kat says:

    Your description of Taylor as the Engergizer Bunny is spot on! He packs more into his shows than most others today! It’s the connection that he can make w/ his audience that makes him such a special performer. Wish I had been there.

  23. Teen Angel says:

    Great review.

  24. Barbieflausa says:

    Thank you…you have a writters gift…of course the focus of your inspiration could fill volumns. Bravo Zulu!

  25. Poolie says:

    An extremely well written review on an exeptional performer who doesn’t get a lot of positive attention from the press and nowhere near the respect he deserves.

  26. Giovanna says:

    Thank you for respecting Taylor. He is such a hard-working musician, so passionately loves music and loves to entertain people. He has been knocked down so many times, but he just keeps getting back up and grows taller and taller with the bricks thrown at him. Once in awhile, someone like you comes along and lets him and his fans know that all those struggling years making the music he loves and working his butt of to make people happy have all been worth it.

    That you for the exceptionally nice, well-thought-out review of Taylor Hicks.

  27. moonbeam says:

    Thanks for a great review. I was there both nights and have still not quite come back down to earth. Taylor’s concerts are like a roller coaster ride with quiet moments like Maybe You Should and Nineteen, then climbing up the hill with some mid tempo songs, and finally whips the entire room into a frenzy speeding down the hill with songs like Runaround, Seven Mile Breakdown, and New Found Freedom. He knows how to work an audience like no other. I knew his return to his hometown would be special but it was much more than I could have imagined. Taylor Hicks is a one-of-a-kind showman. Thanks for recognizing his talent.

  28. Tally says:

    Your review captures what so many of us think about his performances but are not able to express as well as you just did. I loved when you said you were “having an out of body experience.” It’s true! I remember walking out into the night after his performance at the Magic Bag in Ferndale, Michigan with the rest of the crowd. We were stunned, unable to find words to express what we had just experienced. Thanks for capturing the magic so well.

  29. smiddlecn says:

    Really nice review! I live in Birmingham and was unable to attend the shows due to dull work-related reasons, so I greatly appreciate the video. Thanks so much!

  30. jonibug says:

    An accurate review of a magical weekend…undoubtedly the best time of my life. Taylor was fantastic and I couldn’t have described it better than you did! Thank you!

  31. Judy says:

    Living in the state of Washington, I live for recaps and reviews of Taylor’s performances. THANK YOU for the fabulous review. You really captured Taylor, like he captures us!! He is truly fantastic and unique!! From reading your article, I felt like I was at the show. I so appreciate your writing style and agree with every word.

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  39. Amber Velez says:

    This is a good post. As a fan of Taylor Hicks, I thank you.

  40. justine says:

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    at this post reminds me of my previous roommate who adored Taylor Hicks. I am going to forward this article to her.
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