On a hot August night in downtown Minneapolis, legendary classic rock and improvisational pianist Bruce Hornsby brought his band to Pantages Theater. Known for his solo career as well as working with just about everyone ranging from The Grateful Dead to Eric Clapton, the man has been entertaining crowds since the early ’70s. Now at the age of 64, Hornsby shows no sign of fatigue. He remains the strongest presence on stage and keeps the rest of his band on their feet as they work to keep up with him.
Opening the night was S. Carey. Based out of Eau Claire, WI, this group brought a calming but sophisticated sound onto the stage. Their indie-folk songs brought with them long jams, build-ups, and heavy-hitting choruses. They remained interactive with the crowd throughout the set with humorous and witty remarks both amongst themselves on stage and the crowd. The inspiration for their sound seems to draw from the simplicity and beauty in nature. Deriving from the calmness solitude in nature can bring, their music seems to reflect what one might hear and feel while silently strolling through the woods.
When one emerges from the trees, they don’t often walk into the sounds of a music legend, but tonight that was exactly the case. Bruce Hornsby took stage not long after S. Carey stepped off. The crowd was more than thrilled to welcome him back to Minneapolis, and by the looks of it, he felt the same way. Wasting no time, Hornsby sat down in front of the piano and broke into “Circus on the Moon.” Filled with intense piano solos and full band noise, the song took up the first 10 minutes of the set. The end of this song, like every other song from the set, brought a standing ovation from the crowd.
The only cover of the night came five songs into the set with Hornsby playing a solo rendition of George Harrison’s “Run of the Mill.” The cover brought a clever transition into his next song, “The Way It Is” due to the fact both songs feature the phrase “everyone has choice.” His decision to feature this cover before his own song gave deeper emphasis towards the overall theme of these two songs. Something which is often ignored by musicians on stage as they focus more on sound. After playing this track, frontman S. Carey of S. Carey returned to stage to help perform a song Hornsby worked on in Eau Claire with S. Carey’s bandmate from Bon Iver, Justin Vernon. The two harmonized together on the choruses before Carey moved towards the back of the stage to accompany Sonny Emory on drums.
The next treat Hornsby brought the crowd was him moving to center stage, trading in the piano for a dulcimer. The more acoustic-based sound this brought with it took the band through several songs including “The Valley Road,” a track from Hornsby’s old band Bruce Hornsby and The Range. With Hornsby returning to the piano, the band wrapped up the set with a couple of more songs before returning to play a jamming rendition of “Rainbow’s Cadillac” for the encore.
Not many out there would dispute the brilliance of Bruce Hornsby. He’s been widely respected and looked up to for over 40 years. While the man himself may have left town, the impact he left on the crowd sure hasn’t.