Hot House Kept Cool

Bruce Hornsby

Vic Theatre - Chicago, IL

May 10, 1996

First Appeared in The Music Box, May 1996, Volume 3, #3

Written by John Metzger


Bruce Hornsby blew through Chicago on May 10, playing the intimate Vic Theater. For the past few years, Bruce Hornsby has been taking requests at his shows, and the result has generally lent his concerts a loose, relaxed ambience. On this occasion, however, it just didn't work. At a recent performance at the Arie Crown, Hornsby masterfully handled requests for Traffic's Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, Elton John's Madman Across the Water, and the Devo-popularized Working in a Coalmine. This time, the best the audience could muster was a request for Chopsticks.

Yes, the crowd really sucked, and unfortunately, Hornsby noticed just how bad it was. Sure, he fulfilled their requests, but I'm sure he was quite disappointed in their spirit. The audience insisted on talking through most of his material, which zapped any remaining interest he might have had in giving a transcendent performance.  The delicate chord changes of Changes went unnoticed, as did his masterful piano playing on Spider Fingers. Too bad. Hornsby, as many Deadheads can attest, is one hell of a piano player, and he can work up quite a jazzy arrangement to any song around. His band, which includes John D'Earth on trumpet, J. T. Thomas on organ, and Bobby Read on saxophone, knows just about every song and can jam it to the extreme.

For the most part, Hornsby stuck to his piano, though he occasionally picked up his accordion for songs such as Bob Dylan's Masterpiece. Unfortunately, the crowd dampened the mood throughout the show, and at times Hornsby very much seemed to be going through the motions in order to move on to another show with hopefully a better scene. It's a shame as the intimacy of the Vic Theatre was utterly wasted.

Warren Haynes and Duane Betts, on a night off from the Allman Brothers Band's five-night engagement, were caught witnessing the show. God Street Wine opened, but its pedantic Grateful Dead-meets-Phish formula wasn't terribly inspired.

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Copyright 1996 The Music Box