Photos by Jim Mimna
The Scene: Arriving at the Boulder Theater Thursday evening, I was greeted by many familiar faces smiling in anticipation of what was sure to be a special performance. It was far from a full house, probably due to this show being announced only 4 days prior due to the High Park fire forcing the band to reschedule their planned appearance at Mishawaka Amphitheatre outside of Ft. Collins, but those of us who made it were treated to an unforgettable night of music and storytelling by Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers.
The Theater was set up for reserved seating, with rows of chairs filling up the center of the venue but the sides were left open so folks could dance and sway, and that they did. The lively crowd was made up of families with children, 30-something professionals, veteran Deadheads, and more mature fans of this acclaimed and tenured performer.
Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers: With no supporting act the lights went down and the band took the stage promptly at 8:30, and the shouts of “BRUUUUUUUUUUUCE!” and fans’ requests soon followed. Bruce and the Noisemakers gladly obliged many of the requests, showing his appreciation for the crowd and turning this into a truly intimate experience.
After some initial banter and a brief rendition of “Bird Music” by French composer Olivier Messiaen, the band launched into rousing versions of “Another Day” and “Great Divide” before pausing so Bruce could answer an 8 year old pianist’s written question about the age of his Steinway piano (Bruce didn’t honestly know as it was a “permanent rental” from the piano company, though he did acknowledge it had been in his possession for about 8-9 years). As the show went on, Hornsby took time between tunes to share details of each song, such as introducing the new piece “Might As Well Be Me” which he had just co-written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Just as the band was about to begin “The Show Goes On,” a song featured on the Backdraft soundtrack and relevant considering the last minute venue change due to the fire, the tinkling of a broken glass pierced the anticipatory silence and laughs erupted from both the stage and the crowd. Bruce and his drummer, Sonny Emory, playfully traded licks back and forth trying to imitate the sound of the shattered glass on piano and cymbals and it was moments like these that really brought a smile to my face and made us all feel welcomed and appreciated as fans.
Bruce not only led the band from his wheel house at the piano, he also changed the pace and treated the audience to some old & new arrangements of songs in a more of a folk fashion by playing the dulcimer on “Good Life,” “Darlin’ Cory,” and “Prairie Dog Town.” He even had Sonny come out from behind the drum kit and strap on a vest frottoir and grab some spoons to accompany him on “Shadow Hand.” With each song he told a new story, or recounted some anecdotal history, and like a true master of his craft he drew the audience deeper into the performance. Of course, in classic Bruce fashion, he also played the accordion on “Defenders Of The Flag” to keep thing interesting before returning to his big black Steinway for the duration of the show.
All throughout the night, the energy swelled as the Noisemakers filled the air with lively and passionate music. Each member of the six-piece ensemble was given ample time to display their talents despite sharing the stage with such a gifted and accomplished artist. Even though each individual solo was well played and well received, nothing was more impressive than the sum total of all the parts on stage. The generosity and humility displayed by Bruce is part of what makes him so much fun to see. The show clocked in at just over 2 hours and as the crowd left, we all shared satisfied grins knowing we had just witnessed a truly special and intimate experience.
Set 1: Intro Banter > Bird Music, Another Day, Great Divide, So Out, Might As Well Be Me, The Show Goes On, Spider Fingers, Good Life, Darlin Cory, Prairie Dog Town, Shadow Hand, Defenders Of The Flag, Resting Place, Mandolin Rain, Black Muddy River, Swan Song
Encore: The Dirt Ground, The Way It Is
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light show: A-