The Scene: Two masters of their crafts, Bruce Hornsby and Bela Fleck brought their respective bands to the picturesque setting of Chatfield Botanic Gardens for an improv heavy show last Sunday that dazzled concert goers who lounged on blankets and soaked in an amazing summer afternoon.
Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers: Hornsby started things off and stayed far from the beaten path that many older fans might have expected. While he did play one tune from his “hits” period, it was a song that he co-wrote with Don Henley, “End Of The Innocence.” While the song basically stayed true to melody, Hornsby played with the phrasing and he and his band jammed it out significantly to the delight of some of the younger folks who have become familiar with Hornsby’s jamband tendencies over the last 20 years.
Much of the rest of the set focused on strongly written jam vehicles like “Rainbow’s Cadillac,” “White Wheeled Limousine,” “Resting Place,” and a track he wrote with the legendary Grateful Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter “Cyclone.” It was clear that Hornsby and his band of Noisemakers were having a great time during their 90 minute set. The traded solos, kept each other on their toes, and even invited Bela Fleck out for a tune or two on banjo.
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones: After no more than a 10 minute break, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones emerged and broke right into their trademark brand of Bluegrass Tinged Jazz, often played at breakneck speeds. This performance offered something significantly different for fans who hadn’t seen The Flecktones for a while, it marked the return of “Original Flecktone” Howard Levy on Piano and Harmonica. Levy added something very different to the group as compared to Saxman Jeff Coffin who has left the Flecktones to focus on Dave Matthews Band full time. He tickled the ivories and blew on that harp like a man possessed and it was easy to see that he fit in right alongside the other masters of their instruments in this band of virtuosos.
While Future Man hammered out the drum parts on his own invention, the Drumitar, Victor Wooten layed down some of the funkiest grooves possible on bass, and “The Big Flecktone,” Bela Fleck himself watched as his fingers danced around his banjos fretboard seemingly disconnected from his mind and body. It was really something to witness and the band featured several tracks from their recent release Rocket Science, alongside material from the early days of the group. Late in the evening, Bruce Hornsby came back out for a version of his own “Night On The Town,” and a duet with Fleck. The night ended with all the members of both bands out on the stage jamming on the Weather Report classic, “Birdland.”
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: C