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Review: Taylor Hicks Meets Expectations at the City Winery in New York

Taylor Hicks

In order to understand this review, it’s probably important to know the backstory. About three months ago, after posting an article about how Taylor Hicks Ruined American Idol, we were inundated with comments and Tweets from die hard Hicks fans telling us to go shove it. After a few snide remarks coming directly from Hicks’ personal Twitter account, he reached out and invited our crew to a show while he was in New York. It was only fair to come out to the show. Maybe our thoughts on him would change. Miracles can happen.

This was not one of those moments. It needs to be made very clear. Taylor Hicks puts on a great show. His band kicks some major butt, especially his horn and piano players who spent a large amount of the night playing killer solos. The rest of the band, comprised of two percussionists, a bass player and a guitarist create a truly great big band style sound. Even Hicks had his moments, blaring some amazing harmonica solos into his microphone. That’s where the positives end.

What lowers the expectations is realizing what you’re watching. You’re watching a former American Idol winner, who received millions of votes on national television, playing to a crowd of under 300 and essentially, mimicking a really good lounge singer. Honestly, we didn’t expect anything more. Hicks did the same thing on American Idol and continues to do shine in that regard. The worst parts of the show came when he performed songs he had either written or arranged. It felt like forced songwriting instead of a natural flow of words.

The entire vibe for the show was very odd. While many people in the crowd were very interested in the show, it seemed that another large portion was more interested in eating the delicious food served at City Winery. There were even a few older gentlemen having trouble staying awake. It seemed that the huge following Hicks has online, doesn’t translate all that well in New York.

The moral of the story is that I respect Hicks. Although he did compete, and miraculously won Idol, he was and will always be a midwestern lounge singer. He rocks that role and although that’s what we expected, it’s not the way he was pitched to us online. We were told that seeing him live would open our eyes and blow us away. Unfortunately, none of that happened. Instead we were left with a Billy Joel type lounge singer. The only difference between Joel and Hicks is that Joel is a brilliant songwriter. Hicks should probably stick to covers and standards as he continues to ride the wave as an American Idol winner.

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8 Legacy Comments

  • Comment by thetruth posted May 16, 2011 at 13:21

    You should probably stick to writing about music you like – like pop you brag is so great – the Justin Bieber’s and the New Kids on the Block reunion tour. Your credibility as any sort of a broad ranged music critic is laughable. The difference between you and a credible is that they know what they write about, you don’t.

    I was there last night, and he put on one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever had and I’ve been around the block for a few decades, so to each his own.

  • Comment by Sammi posted May 16, 2011 at 17:14

    As someone who voted for Taylor on American Idol, and totally supported him, I’m disappointed in his song selections. I was expecting another “John Mayer” or a young, modern, “Bob Seger”, wow, was I wrong. His music is too dated and “lounge singer” is an accurate description of his music. I hope one day he will wake up and realize his music sucks and he needs to make drastic changes. His crazy fanbase of older, obsessed women has also hurt his career.

  • Comment by someonegetsit posted May 16, 2011 at 17:42

    Thank you for giving an honest review of your experience last night. Mr. Hicks gave you the opportunity to see him and that is all he asked for.

    I have to agree with your assessment of him being a lounge singer. I have seen Taylor live a few times and left with the same impression. He’s not everyones cup of tea, but he is a decent bar musician.

    All that hype that you were getting from Twitter was coming from his small, but dedicated and often rabid fanbase. They don’t get that there is more to the music scene than Taylor Hicks or the musicians who he favors. God bless them all, because it seems they are all he has left.

  • Comment by IknowanasswhenIreadone posted May 16, 2011 at 20:23

    Lot of difference between a “lounge singer” and a master song interpreter. But I wouldn’t expect you to recognize that. Joel perhaps writes better or at least more, but Taylor interprets much better and has a far better voice. Your review means nothing because you would never admit it anyway. In fact I believe you were blown away in order to write the compliments that you did. It takes an incredible musician to play the harp the way Hicks does. And blend songs together the way he does. And arrange and lead the band the way he does. You did not even recognize all the songs which really made me laugh since you fancy yourself an “expert”. Thats funny.
    Tonight, still in New York, Hicks will be playing to a much larger sold out crowd. Wish I was there.
    This article is much better written by someone who actually knows all the songs. lol

  • Comment by Jenni Jac posted May 16, 2011 at 21:48

    I must say Harris, this is a better review than I expected based on your past attitude toward Taylor Hicks. I did think it was in pretty poor taste to tweet snarky comments during a show in which you were Taylor’s invited guest. But I’ll put all that aside and just focus on this review.

    While this is obviously not your style of music, at least now I can see some glint of respect for what he does as a musician. Taylor is very southern-centric and old school. Not everyone’s ears are attuned to that. Taylor was never cut out for mainstream but he has built a good niche for himself. When he did have that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he was as prepared as anyone ever was and he made the most of it. It’s a miracle when anyone wins American Idol, but in terms of paying his dues, no one ever deserved to win it more than he did. And while he didn’t reach superstar level (which only Carrie & Kelly from Idol ever have IMO), he has a pretty solid career going and a good group of people nationwide who appreciate what he does.

    I do think your comments about venue size are a bit unfair. Realistically the number of idol alum that can tour as a headliner on any level can be counted on both hands. A few have never gotten past being support acts. Even Jennifer Hudson, ubiquitous as she is right now, recently had to cancel a tour. Taylor Hicks is his own touring entity and his own business entity. He’s not being promoted, propped up, or hyped by a record company, he’s doing it all on his own. He knows how to scale a tour and keep it going when others aim too high and falter. As you saw last night, he has assembled an amazing band and he’s going to be doing this for a long time.

    If you want to call Taylor a lounge singer, fine. I don’t see him that way at all. He’s been called a lounge singer, a bar singer, a karaoke singer, but as far as I’m concerned he’s a bandleader. If you weren’t too busy on twitter last night, you might have noticed that he directs each member as he goes thru the longer songs. He inserts songs within songs, he stays fluid. That’s far beyond the realm of a lounge singer.

    There’s a saying that I like, that haters are just confused admirers. I don’t know if Harris falls into either category. I don’t like the way he belittles a hard working musician to get attention, but I tell you this review is not mean-spirited (like his first TH article) so that’s progress.

    And credit to Taylor for reaching out and inviting a somewhat hostile journalist. But Taylor is a man of his word, gracious and is very confident in his live shows, for good reason.

    For anyone who wants to hear the show Harris attended, it is streaming on PanicStream:

  • Comment by lilly posted May 17, 2011 at 01:17

    Oh good grief, just read this more carefully. Besides the harp playing arranging may be THs best talent. The way he blends songs together, near genius and his crowds love it more than anything. Whatever, dude.

  • Comment by g schlafer posted May 17, 2011 at 09:45

    I wholeheartedly agree with the writer above. And Harris, whats with the hairdo man? Are you The Donalds illegitimate son with the downstairs maid?

  • Comment by Caryl posted May 17, 2011 at 14:42

    I’ve always maintained that American Idol isn’t clear about what they’re looking for. Ryan tells the voting public to vote for their favorite. Hicks WAS the favorite in season five. You interpret that win as a vote for the next pop star. He’s not. He doesn’t want to be.

    So, unfortunately he has to endure angry and downright mean comments concerning his career post Idol. I think that’s unfair. I was also at the show at the City Winery and had a great time. Isn’t that the point of going to a show?

    His music is more sophisticated than the average pop star’s and may not appeal to everybody. That’s OK. I respect your right to express your opinion but it’s just that.