Maybe the Grateful Dead and Bruce Hornsby have more in common than most fans thought when the piano player joined their tour last year for a handful of shows.
In the same spirit of Dead concerts for more than two decades, last night at Merriweather Post Pavilion Hornsby informed the crowd after the first song that "there are no song lists for any of our shows." He also asked security to back off for the evening and "let the crowd dance or do whatever they want. They pay a lot of money for these tickets."
Once the show got going, it didn't take long for Hornsby to show his versatility -- even under impromptu conditions -- as he put together a 15-song, one hour and 45 minute set that wasn't anything close to what you'll hear on his three albums.
For instance, "Valley Road," an otherwise rollicking number from his middle album, "Scenes From The Southside," was transformed into a barroom blues romp.
Later in the show, Hornsby abandoned his four-man band for "Mandolin Rain," one of the original hits from his first album, and slowed the pace. Just his voice and the piano.
Instead of just rolling the show right into "The Way It Is" -- his first and biggest hit, and the obvious choice to close the main set -- Hornsby chose a 10-minute soft piano piece that segued out of "Mandolin Rain." It seemed almost too perfect.
Hornsby even took time early in the show to play "The End Of The Innocence," a hit for Don Henley two summers ago that he performed on and helped the ex-Eagle write. It wasn't nearly as good as Henley's golden tenor, but sometimes you slip when you take chances.