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The way it is

Pat Reidy | Monday, September 19, 2005

Bruce Hornsby quickly won over his audience in the Leighton Concert Hall at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts Friday night.

After opening with two songs from his new album, “Halcyon Days,” Hornsby nonchalantly informed the full house of 900 that he “wanted to play a song that I wrote a little while ago with a friend of mine from Texas, a song that sold a few records for the two of us.”

That friend was Don Henley; the song was “The End of the Innocence.”

Hornsby proceeded with a repertoire of lively, humorous songs from “Halcyon Days,” joking with the crowd about life as a father and his relationship with his son.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to work more on my humor and less on my social commentary,” Hornsby told The Observer during a sound-check.

His current efforts didn’t stop Hornsby from bringing his audience back to the days of “Mandolin Rain” and title-track “The Way It Is,” two top 20 songs from his triple-platinum album.

Many fans in the crowd hoped he would spend more time on his days of old, especially those who followed his two-year stint with the legendary rock band the Grateful Dead, but Hornsby follows a different philosophy with regard to his music.

“I try not to dwell in the past with my music,” he said. “It’s all about creating more and changing. I don’t feel that I can be the best musician I can be if I continue along the same path for my entire career.”

Hornsby proved his talent as both a performer and a musician near the conclusion of the show. After taking a number of requests intermittently during the early parts of the night – a tradition of Hornsby performances – Hornsby invited those in the first few rows opposite him to sit on stage.

“You can’t really see over there, can you?” Hornsby said. “So how can you be enjoying the show if you can’t even see me? Why don’t you come up here and sit on stage behind me, then you might be able to see a little more, right?”

While Hornsby was only addressing one girl, several dozen concertgoers anxious to be as close to their musical idol as possible jumped on stage.

Students reacted enthusiastically to Hornsby’s musical brilliance.

“Bruce’s fingers seem to just dance across the keys to the music they’re playing, a blend of beauty and energy that just leaves you in awe,” Sorin sophomore Rob O’Brien said.

When asked to describe the opportunity to play in the new Leighton Concert Hall, Hornsby said the venue measures up against the nation’s best.

“I’ve played at lots of places, nice places too, mind you,” he said. “This space is absolutely beautiful. It’s as nice as Carnegie Hall in New York or the Kimmel” Center in Philadelphia.”

Hornsby took full advantage of his surroundings Friday night, reminding his audience of where he’s been and introducing them to where he is now. Less of a “rocker” than his days of old, Hornsby provided an evening that was musically therapeutic, peaceful and pleasant. That’s not to say he put his crowd to sleep.

“There’s a difference between a rock concert and a show like tonight,” O’Brien said. “You’re not sitting in the nosebleed section of a dirty arena struggling to distinguish music and noise. An experience like tonight allows you to become one with the music and allow it to speak to you, wherever you’re at.

“I was profoundly moved by many of his songs, even songs like ‘The End of the Innocence’ that I’ve been listening to forever.”

When asked what advice he could give to up-and-coming musicians and performers at Notre Dame, Hornsby’s words were simple but powerful.