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Bruce Hornsby
A Concert Review

May 10, 1996

The Vic Theatre

Chicago, IL

A Review by
The Mystery Dude
Ah, the Vic... that great little theater where the bartenders throw the bottle caps over their shoulders as they open your beers... Ah, Bruce Hornsby... the man that brought the piano back to popular music. Bruce brought his delicate piano sound to rock-n-radio back in 1986, but has since moved on to a jazzier/improvisational sound. Some fans think this is great, some just want to hear him play "The Way It Is" with The Range again. This reviewer is definitely in the former camp. I first saw Bruce in November of 1993 doing his jazz/improv thing and was blown away. Fortunately I was able to see him at such an intimate venue for a sold out show this time around.

Bruce began the show at a quarter to 9 with the title track off his latest release, "Hot House Ball." This was enough to get the anxious crowd going. Next up was "White Wheeled Limousine." This version was closer to the one released on Bruce's last album, but I encourage everyone to find the original on Rob Wasserman's "Trio's" album, featuring the trio of Wasserman, Hornsby and Branford Marsalis. This "large band" version is good, but hearing what only a trio did on this number will definitely impress! As Bruce sang this he meandered into "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" (White Wheeled Limo at a reception...drinking at the reception...drinking songs...see, it all goes together!), which only made it to 97 bottles before returning to "White Wheeled Limousine." Bruce then left the piano and put on his accordion, an instrument he admits he hasn't mastered, yet but it allows him to move around while still playing a little keyboard. We were treated to "Western Skyline" while Bruce darted around the stage. "Western Skyline" evolved into a cover of Bob Dylan's "When I Paint my Masterpiece."

Bruce then mentioned that he did take requests and walked over and picked up a large stack of papers tossed on the stage. After going through some and lining them up on the piano, "Tango King" was up next, followed by "Fields of Gray." "Sugaree" followed next, much to the delight of the many Deadheads in the crowd. "Rainbow's Cadillac" had the crowd on its feet dancing and swaying to this song about a playground basketball hero. After a quick breather, "Talk of the Town" cranked up and during a particularly hot solo from the horn section, Bruce began singing "Big Boss Man," before returning to "Talk of the Town," which melted into "What a Time," which in turn became "Franklin's Tower" with a little "Chopsticks" thrown in before finishing up climbing "Jacob's Ladder." Whew, what a medley of songs!

Bruce then stood up, put his accordion back on and, introduced "A Flatts and Scrugs song called, 'Lonesome Road Blues,'" before launching into the traditional classic, "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad." Again the Deadheads erupted and danced with glee. After traveling down the road feeling pretty good actually, the band took a quick turn and ended the set with a walk down the "Valley Road."

The band quickly returned and Bruce warmed up for the encore with a little "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Hole in the Bucket" (would you guess he has young children at home?), before beginning "Spider Fingers." This song is supposedly based on a warm up exercise for the piano. Where-ever the idea came from, it is a great little song. The band finished up with "Changes" and "Look out any Window," before returning for a second encore of "Another Day," to end the show almost 2 1/2 hours after it began.

After standing through this marathon, I thought these guys must really be in shape to put out that much energy at such an intensity level. Great show, TWO THUMBS UP!!

God Street Wine warmed the crowd up for Bruce. This east coast quintet said they were going to play a 40 minute set consisting of 6 songs, 4 off the current album, 1 old, and 1 new, and that's exactly what they did. They began with the Phish sounding "Get on the Train." Bruce is obviously a fan of theirs because he was lurking at the back of the stage while they performed a couple of the songs, one of which Hornsby requested. The set ended with their new song, "Good Bye Oklahoma." The band apologized for the one year lay off in visits to Chicago, and said they would try to get back soon. Not a bad little group. ONE THUMB UP!


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