American Idol may have needed Taylor Hicks more than Taylor Hicks ever needed American Idol. While watching the 2006 American Idol winner thrill the crowd during his Vinyl Music Hall debut, it was evident that the man has a passion for performing. One way or another, his musical gifts would have been shared with the world, no matter what vehicle he chose to deliver his message. His love of music and the Pensacola audience Thursday night punctuated the fact that Taylor Hicks was born to entertain.
Sharing the Vinyl Music Hall stage as opening artist was local musician, James Adkins. Having graduated from Pensacola High School and studied in the University of West Florida Jazz program, Adkins has built a strong fan base by playing local venues and sharing his love of music by teaching those who are willing to learn. With a set packed with popular hits, Adkins displayed appreciation and humor while juggling audience requests during his set. “I got a song for the ladies,” smiled Adkins as his brief introduction served notice of his rendition of the Gloria Gaynor disco burner “I Will Survive.” Adkins ended his performance by giving thanks to the crowd and showing appreciation to the venue and the show headliner.
Jackie Linn of Soft Rock 94.1 jumped on stage and cheered on the crowd in preparation for Hicks’ entrance. “You guys ready? “ Linn asked the audience, “Alright, here is what I want you to do. I want the ladies to go “Taylor!” and the guys to go “Hicks!” With those words, Linn instigated a playful riot as gender-war commenced in an effort to show who had the most spirit. I think the ladies won the overall competition, but it was closer than expected.
The Soul Patrol was in full force as Hicks’ band prepared themselves and cut into a groove as Taylor Hicks strutted and danced onstage, working the beat and the crowd with his opening number, “Compared to What.” A musical scorcher with political heat that was written by Eugene McDaniels and became hits for jazzman Les McCann and soul legend Roberta Flack.
With a soulfully powerful voice, Hicks held the crowd in his gaze as he navigated every available inch of the stage and showed his musical versatility by jumping from guitar, harmonica and even cowbell…yes…Hicks even rocked the cowbell. Firmly holding the attention of the audience with music and showmanship, he also displayed his appreciation for the men and women serving our country as he dedicated his song “Nineteen” to them.
While witnessing the energy Hicks put on display for the Pensacola crowd, his performance made several things clear. One of the most obvious points being that the Birmingham, Alabama born gentleman was, with or without the help of America’s biggest talent search, destined to be a star.
-Michael L. Smith