Review: Bruce Hornsby’s Great Evening of Nostalgia

Austin, Texas

An Evening with Bruce Hornsby at the Paramount.
By Gina Alligood

Three-time Grammy award winner pianist Bruce Hornsby gave a gathering of Austin, TX fans everything they came for and more this past Tuesday at the Paramount Theater. This particular evening was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of his 1998 double CD “Spirit Trails”, an eclectic collection with a theme
best explained by Hornsby himself, a Virginia boy at heart. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, this is what he said about the album; “it is very Southern…a lot of songs about race, religion, judgement and tolerance….and sort of my own personal struggles with some of these issues or observing others with the issues.” And a personal night it was. Hornsby performed without his band The Noisemakers, so it was an intimate night in the theater with the audience reveling in the pure magic of Bruce’s voice and his exquisite command of the Steinway.

His warm up was mesmerizing. We watched as he played his first piece while simultaneously unfolding his tall frame, stretching his legs, leaning back to lengthen arms, and bending forward over those energized hands marrying him with the piano. Ready to impress, he then reached to the slips of papers stacked on the piano, requests from the listeners who knew him well. He aimed to please the crowd, offering us favorite songs from the Spirit Trails CD, but often venturing to other years and songs.

Early in the set there was a roar from the crowd as we heard that tell-tale syncopated beat of the Civil Rights song, “The Way It Is.” A happy crowd boisterously gave applause, as was the case throughout the show. He offered us “Absolute Zero”, “Fortunate Son”, “Line in the Dust”, and “King of the Hill“. With the spotlight on the nimble and quick movements of his hands across the piano, he amazed us with blends of classical, rock, and jazz. There was a song for everyone. More than once, a song brought a standing ovation. No one else can create piano music like Bruce Hornsby; you’ll know it every time, anywhere.

After a few of his songs about struggle, he reminded us that he could also write a sweet song. We settled in for the lyrical, lovely, and mournful sounds of “The Road Not Taken.” Sweet it was. He then broke into, “The End of Innocence”, co- written and performed with Don Henley. For many of us it was Henley’s version we remembered, but when Hornsby finished playing, the song and the audience belonged to him.

As the evening came to an end, and we were feeling good and filled with an outstanding night of Bruce Hornsby music, he managed to surprise us with his final song, a most appropriate Austin, Texas song, “Nobody There But Me”, the song he recorded with Willie Nelson. “And when the sun comes up and the dreams die down, There’s nobody there but me.” We were so glad we were there.

Check out all our photos from the show on Austin 101 Magazine.

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