ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 30, 1993
I like guitars a lot. I really do. As a matter of fact, up until last Thursday (Sept. 23), I don’t think I’d ever attended a concert that didn’t feature at least one of those six-stringed glories. So when I sat down at the Vogue and started to scan the lineup of musicians accompanying Bruce Hornsby, I realized something was terribly wrong. I wasn’t going to see anyone tear up the frets, sweetly bend a few strings, maybe even bust a couple in true rock fashion. And what was that metal thing some studious-looking guy was holding up there? A trumpet?
Good God, don’t tell me I’ve taken a bad turn somewhere and stumbled into a jazz concert!
It was my own fault, of course. If I had bothered to check out Hornsby’s latest release, Harbor Lights, I would have realized that the man behind the catchy pop hit “The Way It Is” had gotten into a heavily jazz-oriented thing. At that point, I could have passed up the prospect of reviewing such a non-rockin’ show, but now I’d committed myself, and though the red EXIT sign glowed temptingly, the thought of feeling the Straight music editor’s burly hands squeezing my neck for missing an assignment kept me there. And as it turned out, I actually enjoyed large portions of Hornsby’s two-and-a-half-hour show. I didn’t even dash for the door when he strapped on his accordion.
Pretty brave, huh?
Anyone who’s a big fan of keyboards would have had a field day, and if the ivories could have laughed, they would have been hysterical from the tickling that pianist Hornsby and fleet-fingered organist John Thomas pulled off. Hornsby’s entire band was in fine improvisatory form, particularly Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip, who played all the solos that a regular lead guitarist would play, which was kinda cool, kinda wacky.
Kinda not as good as having a real guitarist.
Although he seems like a genuinely nice guy, Hornsby is not Mr. Excitement when it comes to performing. Personality-wise, he’s pretty stiff, and although his easygoing vocals were mostly up to snuff, he was totally blown away when background vocalist Debbie Henry took the lead on a Bonnie Raitt–penned love song. Man, can that lady wail!
The highlight of the night for me came when Hornsby performed “The End of the Innocence”, the beautiful tune he wrote for Don Henley a few years back. He should learn to keep those potential hits for himself, though, instead of complaining about giving them away.