If you went to the show to hear Bruce Hornsby perform his pop hits, “The Way It Is” and “Mandolin Rain” in their original recorded form then you were in for a great surprise. Listening to the music reminded me of something you would hear at a smoky jazz bar or something you would hear walking down the street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The style of music performed is a very loose, spontaneous, improvisational form of jazz. If you were to go to 2 different shows, you will hear a different setlist and even the songs might sound a little different each night. Not everyone likes this freeform style of performance, but true jazz aficionados will love it.
Bruce came out alone and played piano for the first song. The Noisemakers joined him for the second song. The Noisemakers are currently made up of John “J.T.” Thomas on keyboards, JV Collier on bass, Sonny Emory on drums, Gibb Droll on guitar and Ross Holmes playing fiddle and mandolin. Bruce had both a grand piano and an electronic keyboard on top of the piano which he switched between. All of Bruce’s shows are different than most other band shows, they do not have a standard setlist. Each night they have the audience put pieces of paper on the stage with the songs they want to hear that night. Before the band comes on stage, one of the roadies picks up all of the papers and then Bruce and the band decide which songs they want to play that night. Bruce places the papers on top of his piano and picks the next one off of the stack and usually that is the song they play. For tonight’s show, there were a couple of times that they did a special song for one of the band members and at other times Bruce decided to just skip the next song. The crowd was really into it shouting out requests during breaks between songs.
At one point in the show, Bruce, Sonny and Ross came out to the middle front of the stage and sat down to play. Bruce played one of his 3 dulcimer while Sonny played spoons on a washboard and Ross play either violin or mandolin.
They played a jazzy version of “The End of Innocence” where the band did a lot of improvisation. Bruce did a piano solo during the middle of the song and Gibb did a great guitar solo. They closed the main set with the song “White Wheeled Limousine”. Again the entire band did a lot of improvisation. The crowd went crazy and gave the band a standing ovation. For an encore, Bruce wanted to do a song they did with Eric Clapton, but the band said no. So instead they played a song that was inspired by Bruce’s time with the Grateful Dead.
Overall it was a great show especially if you love freeform jazz. The band has to be extremely good to be able to play a different song list each night. As the band played, they were laughing and looked like they were having a great time. I saw J.T. and Gibb fist bumped a number of fans in the front row. The Celebrity Theatre was setup in its rotating stage configuration. This allowed everyone in the theatre to get a great view.
Review and Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Venue: Celebrity Theatre
Date: July 6, 2017
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
The show started with an acoustic performance by an Arizona fan favorite Hans Olson. Hans has been playing nightclubs all over Arizona since the 70s. For tonight’s show Hans did a solo performance where he played acoustic guitar and harmonica. I saw Hans back in the 70s when I moved to Phoenix. Over the years he has become a mainstay for Arizona music fans. You can catch Hans at his regular weekly gig every Thursday night at the Handlebar Bar & Grill in Apache Junction.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017