Bruce Hornsby, Christopher Newport University’s Ferguson Center for the Arts, Newport News, VA- 9/17
Bruce Hornsbys sold-out concert, generously benefiting my Alma Maters new performing arts/education center, seemed opportune for visiting the $55,000,000 mammoth I watched growing while a student. Discoveries: Fergusons state-of-the-art acoustics dominate, its 1,700 chairs sit tighter than a bad movie theaters and executive eyes loom. Fergusons Executive Director unquestioningly affronted me for accessing light from my cells screen to see my notes, after an angry old man behind me, more interested in my lap than Hornsby, demanded cessation; people beside me thought he was crazy. Used as a selling point for potential students, Fergusons been built, but I dont sense a desire for anything except the stiffest patronage.
Completely outnumbered jamheads faded into a gagging designer-odor sea and yells of Bruuuce billowed as Hornsby surfaced, pushing Fergusons acoustic treatments through improvised paces. Hes partnered with renowned artists (and part-timed the Grateful Dead between 90 and 92), but tonight, it was just the man from Williamsburg, his piano and a mic, exploring mastered finger flurries and his honed voice. Gonna be Some Changes Made preceded a short Bach Overture Variation, before a rich traditional, Darling Corey. Extended, A Night on the Town opposed The End of Innocence, which was, according to Hornsby, for radio peoplepeople who like to hear songs they know. Talk of the Town wrung some uncomfortable huffs from the tightest collars as Hornsby explained the still relevant subject matter: first interracial couple in Williamsburg.
Set two shined through Halcyon Days, Valley Road and, to the elation of those actually recognizing the song, Mountains of the Moon, which Hornsby wanted to practice for the approaching Comes a Time Garcia celebration in Berkeley. Sugar Magnolia requested, Hornsby demonstrated why its not appropriate for solo piano, before outright denying the choice. King of the Hill, a jab at aristocratic ease, is permanently infused into the venue of marble-floored excesses, Somewhere Over the Rainbow was an odd, but answered request and Spider Fingers, a testament to Hornsbys ambidextrous limbs.
Big Rock Candy Mountain, a well-known traditional since O Brother, Where art Thou?, mused into a freeing funk tangent at encore, promising Hornsby cant, nor would he choose to, forget his varied musical past, no matter his current audience. Renowned administration-picked artists are headed to CNU. Still, what for the campus-locked, energetic and entertainment-hungry freshmen that would visit their promised trophy venue and celebrate too, if only there were breathing room and more choices?