Hicks’ Town

Could a Bally’s residency be the first step in this American Idol winner’s new career?

Hate to say it, but Taylor Hicks is nice. Part of me had hoped that the Season 5 American Idol winner, who begins an eight-week residency at the Indigo Lounge at Bally’s on June 26, would be a glib jerk so I could continue ignoring a show I’ve long disdained. But he’s a nice guy, and even I have to admit he’s got a great voice, so attention must be paid.

“I’ve done shows there, corporate shows, but this will be my first residency,” the 35-year-old says, via telephone. “And from what I gather, the residencies are a great way to really sink your teeth into this grand city they call Las Vegas.”

That’s the downside of Hicks being such a nice guy: Every question I ask receives a polite, measured response, almost as if angelic and demonic publicists were sitting on his shoulders and barking orders into his ear. What excites him the most about spending two months here? “Visiting the Grand Canyon.” What can we expect from his show? “There’ll be some great American Idol show tunes, some new material and some older material. And, obviously, some really great Vegas show tunes.” Speaking of, which Vegas performers does he admire most? “Bobby Darin, Elvis and Wayne Newton. If I can channel all three, I’ll have a successful Vegas show.”

Admittedly, I’d caught Hicks during lunch. And I’ve heard little of his music save for “Do I Make You Proud” and, ironically, his earnest and surprisingly enjoyable cover of Elvis’ dreadful “In the Ghetto.” Even so, I find myself growing impatient with Hicks’ guarded responses. He’s playing Seacrest with me, and there’s no need; he’s already won.

What does he hope to gain from playing a Vegas residency? “I think that, Las Vegas being the Entertainment Capital of the World and me being an entertainer, I hope to gain some insight on my live show and connecting with an audience.”

So that’s it: Hicks hopes this town will sharpen him up. It’s not unheard of: Years of playing Vegas made Wayne Newton as crowd-pleasing a performer as this world has ever seen, and Tom Jones recorded the timeless “She’s a Lady” during his Vegas years. It’s not unthinkable that Las Vegas could take Hicks—whose name remains synonymous with reality television—and find a place for him in the Sin City pantheon.

It’s only at the end of the interview—when I ask if the Bally’s gig is a crowning achievement or a steppingstone—that Hicks tips his hand and reveals what he really wants from this residency. He may be a nice guy, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a hungry one.

“Obviously, it’s a steppingstone,” Hicks says, “to what I hope will be a long, legendary career in entertainment.”

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