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Concert Reviews:
Bruce Hornsby Makes Some Noise At SoundBoard

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2009

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DETROIT -- About a third of the way into his concert Friday night (Oct. 30) at the Motor City Casino's SoundBoard, Bruce Hornsby recalled his history as an "national anthemist" for the Detroit Pistons.

The team is 2-0 with him delivering "The Star-Spangled Banner" he noted -- the last time in collaboration with Anita Baker. And the Pistons, it turned out, could have used him that night, as they were losing their home opener at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Back at SoundBoard, meanwhile, Hornsby -- whose appearances have become all too rare in these parts -- delivered a winner, two hours of sophisticated songcraft and hot instrumental work from the five members of his Noisemakers band, with plenty of piano excursions himself and a little bit of extra space given to Detroit native J.V. Collier on bass. It was a crowd-pleasing show of the best kind, not just for the hits -- although new arrangements took the likes of the "The Valley Road," "Jacob's Ladder" and "The Way It Is" well afield of their radio versions -- but because of the artistic abandon Hornsby and company brought to the exposition.

As is Hornsby's wont these days, Friday's show was an extemporaneous affair, with no planned set list and songs selected by requests made both via the Internet and scrawled on pieces of paper left on the stagefront before the show. Hornsby did perform three songs from his new album, "Levitate," but he acknowledged fans' desire to hear material such as "Resting Place," "Lost in the Snow" and "Walk in the Sun." "The Way It Is," Hornsby's trademark first hit from 1986, was a 15-minute epic with some stylistic nods to piano auteur Keith Jarrett, and he fused two together two arrangements of "Mandolin Rain," closing with the familiar melody that hit the Top 5 in 1987.

The show caught Hornsby at a busy juncture; beyond "Levitate" he's tied into Spike Lee's Kobe Bryant film "Kobe Doin' Work" and the Robin Williams dark comedy "World's Greatest Dad," as well as an in-progress stage musical called "SCKBSTD." The concert stage remains an equally potent vehicle for his artistry, however, and hopefully it won't be too long before he hits the area again -- maybe some time when he can help the Pistons out, too.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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