By Jack Houston
Before he was the season five winner of American Idol, a Broadway star (as Teen Angel in Grease) and a chart-topping pop singer (2006’s “Do I Make You Proud”), Taylor Hicks was a soul man from the Deep South. While he never exactly left those roots behind, it’s possible some fans attending his intimate performances at Bally’s might expect to see a watered-down, reality show-ready Hicks. Fear not.
Hicks, 36, brings the funk, the soul and everything else over the course of a gritty, sweaty 90-minute show that moves between soul-pop originals (“The Deal,” “Maybe You Should” and “19”) and covers familiar to Idol fans—The Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ it to the Streets” and Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” to name two.
Backed by a five-piece band, Hicks digs deep into a reading of “Seven Mile Breakdown,” allowing each of the players (and himself on harmonica) to stretch out, and wears his influences proudly, quoting from Van Morrison and Bruce Hornsby. By the time “Viva Las Vegas” closes the energetic set, it’s possible to see a bit of the King in Hicks. He may not be Elvis Presley, but like his Southern counterpart, he’s taking care of business, and it’s a joy to watch.