Taylor Hicks at the Birchmere, Alexandria, VA, Sunday 15 April 2007
Taylor Hicks may not have the looks that are expected from an "American Idol" winner or sing a style of music that is pop-radio-friendly, but the Birchmere's sold-out crowd hardly seemed to care. In fact, Hicks himself seemed thrilled to indulge in his personal favorite genres on Sunday night, as his soulful croon massaged a snippet of Bill Withers's "Use Me" into the end of his song "Heaven Knows" (whose piano riff is itself a homage to Hicks's hero Ray Charles).
Hicks's overpowering backing band of seven musicians left very little room for subtlety, as much of the evening's music was performed at a constant high volume. To his credit, Hicks boomed over even the loudest instrumentation: his smooth, smoky voice carried the thunderous "Dream Myself Awake" and the Jackson Browne-ish "The Deal." While the merits of hearing every word could be debated (such cheesy lyrics as "I can't get enough of you, baby!" might have been better drowned out), Hicks was wholeheartedly committed to every onstage move.
And his fans loved him for it. From a killer bout on the harmonica ("The Runaround") to his trademark awkward, jerky dance moves during a cover of Traffic's "Medicated Goo," he induced squeals of delight around the room. Those moments showed his genuine flair for entertaining, but a few quieter, subtler songs could have given him the versatility of a true performer.
-- Catherine P. Lewis