Dan Hicks in Dowagiac March 13
Dan Hicks in Dowagiac March 13

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Dan Hicks introduces his far-flung fans to Dowagiac

Published 10:33am Monday, March 15, 2010

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

This is how Dan Hicks introduces his Hot Licks at Saturday night’s sold-out Wood Fire show:

Lickettes, Daria and Roberta Donnay; lead guitar, Dave Bell; string bass, Paul Smith; and violinist, Benito Cortez, the new guy from the Bay Area playing only his fourth show.

“Of course, you all know me,” Hicks drawls. “I’m Tiger Woods.”

Hicks, of course, shared the band’s reaction when they learned their tour would include Dowagiac.

“We nearly peed our pants,” he said to a roar of laughter.

Hicks is a large man, as the “Tangled Tunes”-titled “13-D” (shoe size) attests and, for him, conservatively dressed in a muted pattern vest.

He leads, according to the acclimation of his audience, an exquisitely tight band.

His fans find him in Dowagiac and flock from all over the United States.

Evansville, Ind., at the first table within earshot.

Between sets they compare years they found him, such as 1973 or ’76 in college.
Seventy-three sat near the front of the intimate space.

When the crowd stomped ebulliently for a second encore like in a much larger concert venue, he held the table candle aloft like a Bic lighter.

One unashamed 50ish fan made two trips past the merch table, where you could buy a compact disc or the vinyl package reminiscent of the days Dan scared himself by gracing the cover of Rolling Stone.

Afterwards, 50ish fan confessed that it was the first time in his life he ever stood in line for an autograph.

Some people heard Hicks and the Hot Licks in Detroit at the Art Institute, where it was like Economic Club, with a couple of hundred in the main room and maybe three times that listening in from side rooms.

After opening with “Song for My Father” from the March 2009 release “Tangled Tales,” for which Hicks also designs cover art, he segues into an older original, “Canned Music.”

He has a stool to sit on, but he keeps his mic low and often stands bent at the knees, rocking back and forth.

His leg shoots out like a karate kick, then returns to parade rest, applause rippling across the front tables like the Wave for those close enough and quick enough to catch the move.

Bell is a joy to watch, thrashing about like a rag doll with a beatific smile who has been told he must snatch every note he plays out of the air with his mouth.

There are a lot of notes and not much time.

“That’s pretty much our show for the night,” Hicks announces after the third song, before launching into one of the peaks of “Tangled Tales,” “The Blues My Naughty Baby Gave to Me.”

Lots of lyrics blow by and since the audience continues laughing in all the right places, they obviously already know them by heart.

Hicks builds off that with one of those “vintage tunes,” “I Scare Myself.”

This is one of the highlights of the show, as he mimes all the guitar god poses, like riffing with his tongue, while Bell actually plays the solos behind him.

After an intermission, the Lickettes are in the spotlight for “Waitress in a Doughnut Shop.”

Dan has been performing with Daria and Donnay for nine years.

Hicks covers Tom Waits’ “The Piano Has Been Drinking,” and the necktie is asleep, a tune teeming with “dysfunctional stuff.”

If you know the words, Hicks cautions, “don’t sing along and spoil our tight arrangement.” He might be only half kidding.

“Along Came a Viper,” with “creaky lyrics” and “uptempo blues.”

“That’s what it’s about – taking big-time risks,” he muses, adding that this vintage tune originally appeared on the White Album.

By the time he launches into “Payday Blues,” the crowd is calling out requests, which he warns against.

“We’ve got a certain program we’ve worked out for Do-way-gi-ac.”

Hicks says if anyone feels compelled to call out requests they should just keep that urge to themselves.

His patter climaxes with “Payday Blues,” talking about juxtaposition, blending of opposites, achy-breaky hearts, road warriors, common-law wives and spending paychecks “like a crazy fool.”

“Anybody here have a job?” he wonders, adding that this country song could have been in “Crazy Heart.”

In fact, “I should have won the Academy Award” which went to Jeff Bridges for Bad Blake, Hicks concludes.

“Feel Like Singin’ ” is a scat workout which passes from Hicks to Daria and Donnay.
A magical night ends with “News From Up the Street.”

In true Hicks fashion, he announces that they will adjourn to the Pompeii room to sign autographs for anyone who wants one.

“Start without us if we’re not there,” he says. Slyly, of course.

“We had some fun. Didn’t it show?” Bell the guitarist says.

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