Review: Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers w/ Van Ghost 6/17/12

It was appropriate given it was Father’s Day this past Sunday that Bruce Hornsby was playing Park West. After all he’s a father of two and one of the guiding patriarchal figures of modern classical piano.  The intimate venue located a stones throw from Lake Michigan created the perfect environment for he and the Noisemakers to collectively strut their stuff along side special guest Van Ghost whose been opening during this leg of the tour. Van Ghost, who hail from Chicago boasts a lively horn section with Jennifer Hartswick (vocals, trumpet) being featured prominently on most songs. “Simplify”, a new song, was a synch based ballad with a nicely positioned guitar solo to which the talented Trey Anastasio Band female vocalist enhanced a wonderfully composed piece. Van Ghost plays North Coast Music Festival later this summer.

Bruce Hornsby plays the dulcimer - 06/17/12 Park West – Chicago, IL

SETLIST: Great Divide, Stander on the Mountain, Circus on the Moon, This Too Shall Pass, Across the River, The Good Life*, Prairie Dog Town*, Jack Of Diamonds* > Valley Road*, Pete and Manny > Scarlet Begonias, Mandolin Rain > That Would Be Something, (Time Machine Sounds) > The Way It Is, Tango King, Big Rock Candy Mountain Run > Candy Mountain Run.  Encore: Swan Song

* denotes on dulcimer.

Bruce started the evening with a quiet melodic freestyle piece that burst into “Great Divide” with the pianist trading solo’s with drummer Sonny Emory. Effortlessly in between songs Hornsby mused to the crowd about the Captain Beefheart tour days of keyboardist JT Thomas, as well as stories of songs he penned about his son’s youth. He is quite the weaver of words these days. He’ll scat warming up his vocal chords stretching to stand and admire a crowd that spans generations. In addition to touring life with the Noisemaker’s he’s involved with a number of projects including writing music for an upcoming Spike Lee movie Red Hook Summer, writing a theatrical soundtrack for a performance called Sick Bastard, and playing with old Grateful Dead friend Bob Weir at the All Good Music Festival. Bruce appears at ease on stage and like any good storyteller from those days takes the scenic route in explaining himself and giving the fans a unique listening experience. Reminiscing about the Grammy he won with Branford Marsalis for “Barcelona Mona” he jokes about how he won by default due to the powers that be “not wanting Kenny G to win.” He took turns on piano, dulcimer, and accordion at many points sitting just a nose away from the audience. He has mentioned he prefers venues with 1000-3000 seats as oppose to larger arenas on account the acoustics can be heard by all listeners instead of sound being lost to those in the back. Performance is paramount to Hornsby and though he is relaxed during his performance does not discount him being one of the best at performing razor sharp musicianship and playing to those present. He responds to fans in the audience with the coolness of a stand up comedian fielding a heckler. He spins one fans shout into every fans moment in a way some cannot achieve.

 CIT Dave