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Hornsby concert left crowd enchanted

I DON’T go to out-of-town concerts much these days because I’m tired of the crowds at big venues and sitting in traffic before and after.

Thankfully, I was part of the crowd Thursday night to see Williamsburg native Bruce Hornsby at the customer-friendly Celebrate Virginia Live in Fredericksburg’s Central Park.

It was a magical evening, with Hornsby—who’s earned 12 Grammy nominations over the years—delivering an artful and powerful pastiche of rock, blues, fusion, bluegrass and more with a band called The Noisemakers that is as tight as you’ll find touring these days.

He wasn’t deterred by the fact that the outdoor venue at Celebrate Virginia wasn’t packed, instead accentuating the positive by noting that a neighborly vibe and the presence of many of the band’s children—including his twin sons—gave the show the feel of a backyard barbecue.

A music lover, I’m not easily wowed, having seen some amazing acts over the years at places ranging from big arenas to outdoor spots such as Wolf Trap and Charlottesville’s Pavilion.

But few nights compared with what the audience was treated to by the band and Hornsby, who noted at the concert’s start that his mother had gone to Mary Washington College—“May Queen 1948! Get a yearbook. Check it out!”

From there, he and the band delivered a two-hour-plus performance that featured big hits such as “Mandolin Rain” and “The Way It Is,” as well as extended jams. Riffing in those ranged from classical to funky, with tempo changes that kept the band members on their toes.

The reception from the audience was as warm and genuine as the dialogue the consummate star maintained with the audience—such as when Hornsby announced “Jacob’s Ladder,” a song he wrote with his brother, John.

“We gave it to our friend Huey Lewis, who had a big hit with it,” said the singer with a wry smile. “We’re going to do what we can performing it tonight to render it unrecognizable.”

I’m thrilled to have a venue such as Celebrate Virginia Live in our own backyard. I thank David Peterson, the promoter and event producer for the summer music series that brought country’s Darius Rucker Friday night and is bringing pop–rock’s Daughtry tonight and rock legends Foreigner on Aug. 3.

I hope, like many locally who love live music, that the summer series can grow into one that runs year-round with its own indoor venue.

That’s been mentioned by the developers and business folks who’ve backed Celebrate Virginia Live. They would like to see a music complex as a permanent part of that back section of Central Park.

That sounds great, but for it to happen, we music fans locally need to support the acts coming in now.

Yes, there may have been growing pains with this series and others, as venues, acts and ticket arrangements have improved over time.

But as the range of concerts this week demonstrates, we’re finally getting some top acts here in the ’Burg.

Supporting them—plunking down hard-earned bucks for tickets, dinner and maybe a cool beverage from our local vendors—is the only way to help things grow.

I hope we get to the point where the gracious and talented Hornsby comes back to play a small but rocking concert hall here.

This time, to the full house he deserves.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415