Monday, May 29, 2017

Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers at City Winery

Bruce Hornsby was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, and in 1974 first performed in his older brother's band, Bobby Hi-Test & the Octane Kids, playing covers of jam band songs. In 1980, Bruce and his younger brother, John Hornsby, moved to Los Angeles, California, where they spent three years writing songs; while there, Bruce was a session musician and performed in Sheena Easton's band. Back in Virginia in 1984, he formed Bruce Hornsby & the Range and, largely due to the multi-platinum hit "The Way It Is," won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1987. In 1990, Hornsby began collaborating with the Grateful Dead and later with many of its offshoots. His own music became more improvisational, leading to the demise of his pop band in 1991. Beginning in 1993, Hornsby's solo work became more diversified, as he recorded bluegrass, classical and jazz albums. In 1998, a new band, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers, incorporated all of those sounds. The Noisemakers presently consist of  keyboardist/organist John “JT” Thomas, bassist J.V. Collier, drummer Sonny Emory, fiddle/mandolin player Ross Holmes, and guitarist Gibb Droll. Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers' sixth and most recent album, Rehab Reunion, was released on June 17, 2016.

At City Winery tonight, the first of three shows, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers played songs loosely and freely jammed in a wide spectrum, including elements of classical, jazz, bluegrass, folk, rock, blues, and jam band musical traditions. Hornsby proved to be a hefty player on the piano and other instruments, but he was also a grand bandleader, encouraging his musicians to showcase their skills. The show even began with a drum solo before segueing into the opening song, "Barren Ground." From there, Hornsby and his band solidly cascaded into medleys that featured spacious musical arrangements and freewheeling musical exchanges. About midpoint in the concert, Hornsby moved away from his piano and play a dulcimer in an acoustic four-song mini-set with the band, and Hornsby played accordion on another song later in the performance. Hornsby's vocals were under par this evening, however, carrying the words and melodies but cracking often. Nevertheless, the strength of Hornsby's performance was in his ability to capture lively pop with bits from classical compositions, jazz standards, and traditional bluegrass.

Visit Bruce Hornsby at www.BruceHornsby.com.

Setlist
  1. Sonny Emory drum solo > Barren Ground
  2. Leadbelly cover > Country Doctor
  3. Simple Prayer > Simple Prayer Part Two
  4. The Red Plains
  5. John “JT” Thomas organ solo > The Way It Is
  6. Funhouse
  7. Green Green Rocky Road*
  8. Black Rats of London*
  9. MIA in M.I.A.M.I.*
  10. Over the Rise*
  11. End of the Innocence
  12. Ross Holmes fiddle solo > Big Stick**
  13. Fortunate Son
  14. Rainbow’s Cadillac

* denotes Hornsby on dulcimer; ** Hornsby on accordion

Encore
  1. Place Under the Sun