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Published: 2006/09/15
by Dan Greenhaus

Bruce Hornsby, Planting Fields Arboretum, Oyster Bay, NY- 8/25

Having lived my entire pre and post college life twenty minutes away from the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, I was quite confused as to why I’d never heard of a show being played there, let alone actually seen one. So when, subsequent to my Mapquesting the Bruce Hornsby show, I was quite enthused to say the least.

For the uninitiated, the Arboretum is a stunning piece of land situated in a gorgeous part of Long Island, and any day trip to the site would surely be rewarding by itself. With respect to hosting musical acts, the Arboretum has much to offer, and yet much to improve upon. The stage and the tented seats are worth the price of admission even if they were a bit pricey on this night, and the sprawling lawn, for $45, didn’t fall far behind. Thousands of fans brought along tables and chairs, surely setting up early enough to catch the opening set by Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of one Billy Joel, and a talented performer in her own right. Should the Arboretum offer up shows in the future, some of which would hopefully appeal to readers of this site, the lawn seats would meet ones needs and then some, affording concert goers with plenty of room to relax and enjoy the surrounding foliage while still providing an adequate view of the stage. The only drawback would be the sound, which failed to maintain its volume as you moved further back on the lawn. Perhaps that’s because I like my music loud, perhaps that’s just because I’m hypercritical. Perhaps both.

As for the show itself, I can’t say enough. Bruce Hornsby is as solid a performer as one can find, and this show was, of course, no exception. His insistence and penchant for rotating setlists and changing up arrangements makes each and every time one sees him live akin to the first time. While it would be easy to harp on strong takes on staples “End of the Innocence,” “The Way It Is” and “Mandolin Rain,” and I’m sure plenty of people will, ignoring stellar takes on “Song D” and “Candy Mountain Run” do the show a disservice. Indeed such songs as “Line in the Dust, ” “Shadow Hand” and the set-closing “Rainbow's Cadillac” showcased the band’s cohesiveness without overshadowing the skills of Hornsby himself. The interplay between the musicians was top notch, perhaps highlighted by the aforementioned “The Way It Is,” which saw an extended outtro section that brought the crowd to its feet, despite the light drizzle that came and went throughout the evening.

Leaving the venue, I reflected on the beauty of the surrounding landscapes, and I wondered why more bands don’t play at the Arboretum. While I couldn’t immediately find an answer, and still can’t, I can however implore this venue to have more artists next summer. Going back shouldn’t be a matter of if, it should be a matter of when.

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