by john katsilometes | November 22, 2012 | People
When working on his Las Vegas stage act, Taylor Hicks often asks himself, “What would Elvis do?”
“That’s my motto,” says Hicks, who just recently started a yearlong residency at The Indigo at Bally’s, after a successful nine-week run roaring through the refurbished lounge over the summer. “But only stylistically speaking.”
The Birmingham native had many opportunities to turn Hollywood after he won the fifth season of American Idol, but he plans to continue to stay true to his Southern roots and infuse some country-fried charm and chops to the Strip. “Elvis had that country and blues thing going and brought that to Vegas,” he says. “I’m very nostalgic about the history here.” Hicks and his five-piece Soul Patrol enjoyed strong word-of-mouth support during their sneak peek this past summer. After endearing himself to the local scene, many of his fellow headliners made it to his show. Smith Center headliner Clint Holmes proclaimed: “This guy sings his face off.”
At Bally’s, Hicks jokes that he’s stopping short of littering the floor with crushed peanut shells to give the room a true “roadhouse” feel. But there is no question he is returning to a venue that wasn’t built for artists of his vocal scope and power. About 160 chairs are lined up for a singer who can easily reach the nether regions of any arena. The sound exploding from the stage has been likened to tossing a cherry bomb into a mailbox. Calibrating the sound and pacing the show is vital to Hicks’s success in Indigo.
He and the Soul Patrol mix originals with such covers as the Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It To the Streets” and Stephen Stills’s “Love the One You’re With.” He nods to Vegas in the ballad “19,” in which he sings about a young man who was to play football at UNLV before choosing military service. Long solos spice the show, and Hicks shows off on the harmonica and even dances in the small space allowed for such activity. For his showstopping finale, the curtains are open, allowing a wave of sound to crash down on those at slot machines and tables in the casino.
The hotel is marketing Hicks aptly, boasting that he is the only Idol champ to have a residency in Vegas. His critics have said he hasn’t maximized that championship, even though he has been working regularly. Now this Bally’s engagement is giving him a chance to step into the spotlight as a headliner and star. “I love the atmosphere in Vegas,” he says. “There’s a great live entertainment community. You’ve got to be good to succeed here.”
So what would Elvis do? Sing his face off, is what. And Taylor Hicks has been given a year to do just that. 702-777-7776.
photography by skip bolen/alabama relief