Fan lists 5 reasons to see Bruce Hornsby's show this weekend
Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 4:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 4:26 p.m.
When I was 7, my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Teff, gave my class a homework assignment: Bring in a tape of your favorite song and play it for everyone.
Who: Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, with James Justin & Co.
When: 6 p.m. gates, 7 p.m. show, Friday, Aug. 2
Where: Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, 1941
Amphitheater Drive, Wilmington
Tickets: $40 in advance (from Gravity Records, Momentum Surf & Skate or online), $47 day of show
Details: www.GreenfieldLakeAmphitheater.com or
The next day, one by one, my classmates sat at a table, plugged their cassettes into a pink boombox and played songs by Paula Abdul and New Kids On The Block. When it was my turn, I pressed the play button and bopped along in my chair to Bruce Hornsby's "The Valley Road."
Remembering this as a relatively grown-up person, I wonder if my teacher thought I was insane. "The Valley Road" was a chart-topping song with an upbeat tempo, but the lyrics tell the story of unwanted pregnancies between well-to-do women and poor men. Today, it's still one of my very favorites, and 20 years later, Bruce Hornsby remains my all-time favorite singer. I've got a Hornsby playlist on my iPod with more than 250 songs (it's titled "Bruuuuuce," after the way audiences yell his name at live shows), and I've seen him in concert four times, most recently at Chicago's House of Blues in 2011.
On Friday at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, I'll see him live for a fifth time. Here are five reasons why you should, too.
Probably, you don't hate things that are awesome. Hornsby has toured basically nonstop for the past 30 years, first with band The Range, then as a solo act and now with The Noisemakers – but you wouldn't know it from seeing him on stage. His joy is palpable, and it's obvious that he's with a group of musicians who genuinely love playing together.
Frankly, I find this kind of astonishing. There are few things I enjoy doing after a month, let alone 30 years. For Hornsby, happiness is simply a key part of a lifelong career in music.
"I've always felt that my job was to entertain the band, so I'm always moving the music around, cracking jokes and looking for surprise in the music," Hornsby wrote in an email, an interview I obtained by appealing to his (very kind, very patient) management team. "I don't take myself very seriously, and I think that often comes across in our shows, to the band and the audience. That approach helps keep it all fresh, and keeps the energy level and enthusiasm at a high level."
Musicians love him. Throughout his career, Hornsby has worked with an impressive roster of music-makers, including Sting, Elton John, The Grateful Dead and Bonnie Raitt, among many others. This is not a thing you would know unless you read album liner notes, because he doesn't flaunt it – ever.
"I don't actively ‘promote' anything," Hornsby said. "I don't have a publicist, and I'm not very interested in ‘working the room.' I've been fortunate to get lots and lots of calls from amazing musicians and artists through the years, all because they were/are fans of what I do. It's probably the most interesting, rewarding and fulfilling area of my career, but most people are almost completely unaware of it because most of these collaborations are not commercial, not popular."
What would I put on your "Bruce Hornsby With Others" Playlist if you asked me? (Note: You should ask me): "Talk Of The Town," where Phil Collins plays the bongos; "Cruise Control," with Jerry Garcia on guitar; "Gonna Be Some Changes Made," featuring Sting on background vocals and Eric Clapton on guitar; and Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," with Hornsby on the piano.
He's a lesser-known Man In Black. When performing, Hornsby always wears an ebony-colored top. Every time I've seen him live, it's a black silk shirt. What's up?
"Either the shirts that you're referring to, or a black long-sleeve T-shirt, those are my standard ‘uniforms,'" Hornsby said. "I'm a bit of a sweater, so wearing black works for me, keeps the visible stains at bay!"
He offers live shows for free download at his website (www.BruceHornsby.com) and doesn't get mad when you point out that, during said live shows, he is constantly giving shout-outs to keyboard player J.T. Thomas and therefore must love him more than all of the other Noisemakers.
"I'm unaware of this favoritism, but you may be right!" he said. "If it's true, it's only because he sits directly across from me, so I'm looking at him the whole night, and he's the Ed McMahon of the band. He laughs at my jokes."
This was his favorite concert in my home state of Wisconsin: "A llama auction I played in Shawano, Wis. I played at the end of a fashion show runway made of grass turf, as the opening act for the llamas."
I think it's a comprehensive list, but there's your drop-the-mic moment. Frankly, if the llama thing doesn't convince you to see his show on Friday, nothing will.
Kate Queram: 343-2217