Bruce Hornsby at the Tower Theatre October 2023
I can think of few things finer than spending an October Sunday evening with Bruce Hornsby, and by golly that’s just what I did. This past Sunday in Oklahoma City, the Tower Theatre hosted an Evening with Bruce Hornsby, which just happened to coincide with the 25th anniversary tour highlighting Hornsby’s 1998 album, Spirit Trail. To drive that point home, each ticket also came with a brand spankin’ new 3-CD copy of the anniversary edition of the album that’s available now through Thirty Tigers. This “new” album is wonderfully packaged, and includes expanded liners and photos, the original album, as well as a disc of additional music and a live EP. I was honestly pretty excited to get my hands on one of these, and I’m looking forward to giving it more attention. Like many others, I consider it one of Hornsby’s finest efforts.
He alluded to it when discussing the album. Quite humbly, I might add. Though I’ve heard it before, I always enjoy the tale of the album’s cover and the record company executives that didn’t appreciate Uncle Charlie Hornsby’s party trick or Bruce’s insistence that it remain. The tales are certainly part of the charm of attending a Hornsby show, and while one can argue they’re secondary perhaps to the music, I find them just as unique.
I honestly don’t know if Hornsby approaches each night with a rough sketch of a setlist in his head, or just follows the muse. Whatever the approach to Sunday evening, Hornsby’s mix of muder ballads, etudes, variations, originals and banter certainly hit the mark.
I’ve included Hornsby’s own notes and setlist from the show below. I love that he takes the time to share his thoughts on each show, and at least for me, it adds even more value to the overall concert experience. My highlights included the discussion around Leon Russell and the performance of “Anything Can Happen” as well as the dashes of Leon stylings throughout the night. From the opening “Country Doctor,” to “The Valley Road,” to even a sublime performance of “Sneaking Up on Boo Radley,” it felt like Leon was passing through the building.
The always appropriate “Shit’s Crazy Out Here” was fun, and I can honestly say, I’ve never heard an audience so quiet, attentive, and I dare say, respectful, as they were during “End of The Innocence.” Few artists are able to captivate an audience like that, and capture their attention 100%. That’s not to say there weren’t some boneheads present. Despite signage stating no photos/video recording, several folks had to be reminded throughout the evening, to the point that I watched as a repeat offender and their spouse were asked to leave towards the end of the song.
Bruce Hornsby continues his current Spirit Trail 25th Anniversary Tour through November, with a date also already listed for January. If a date’s close, I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve seen Hornsby several times over the years, both on his own and Dead related, including twice on the day Jerry Garcia passed away. This was probably my favorite time seeing him.
Keep up with all the information and check out tour dates for Bruce Hornsby here: https://www.brucehornsby.com
“I had a feeling during the day that I had never played OKC before, did some research and found that it was probably true. We came close once; in 1988 BH and the Range were seen packin’ ‘em out (as opposed to packin’ ‘em in) at the OU basketball arena, drawing 1400 in the 11,500-seat Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, OK. Twenty minutes before the concert I mentioned to road manager Matt Clery that I was expecting no requests onstage (I’ve never been there, how would anyone know?), so he went out, checked and reported back that, in fact, there were none. Still, we had a fine crowd that was actually fairly rowdy and fun, especially one enthusiastically vociferous devotee in the front row who exclaimed throughout!
When I’ve played Tulsa over the years, I’ve always paid homage to my man Leon Russell. I had to do the same here for this Oklahoma music icon.”
- Country Doctor (with Leon Russell stylings!)
- My Resolve
- Sunlight Moon
- Anything Can Happen (Russell-Hornsby; when in Rome, do as the Leon “Romans” do!)
- The Valley Road (with more Leon blues licks)
- Never In This House
- The End Of The Innocence/ Song A
- Living In The Sunshine
- Sneaking Up On Boo Radley/ Twelve Tone Tune (Evans)/ Ligeti Etude #13 (L’Escalier Du Diable)- excerpt
- The Way It Is/ Bach Goldberg Variation 1/ Changes (Tupac Shakur)- excerpt
- Gulf Of Mexico Fishing Boat Blues (Skaggs-Hornsby)
- Mandolin Rain (Skaggs-Hornsby- minor version)
- Shit’s Crazy Out Here
- Walk In The Sun
- Cyclone (from a late request!)
- Swan Song