And keep in mind Hornsby did explain his legitimate connection to a handful of the covers, including Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," - Rogers Waters once asked him to sing it in Spain - and part of the vast Jerry Garcia songbook, "I Truly Understand." But it was discomfiting when the two songs got arguably the biggest reactions of the night, even after hot versions of Hornsby standards like "Prairie Dog Town," and "Jacob's Ladder." And couple that with the fact there were about 10 times the number of Grateful Dead T-shirts in the crowd - thanks to Hornsby's roughly two-year stint with those guys in the '90s - than Hornsby regalia and you felt a bit like you were waiting to see songs other than the keyboardist's originals.
On the plus side, Hornsby's band, The Noisemakers, is a way livelier and funkier group than one might expect if you've only heard his radio hits. Bassist J.V. Collier, whose contributions kept the band in the pocket, along with drummer Sonny Emory, particularly shined during "Spider Fingers" and "Candy Mountain Run."
This was the second night of a Western tour pairing Hornsby with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, which were granted a 90-minute "opening" slot in which they played their vaguely funky, wandering instrumentals that are fine displays of musicianship, but don't really stand out as songs. But, that doesn't detract from getting to watch Fleck's king-of-the-hill bassist Victor Wooten. (If you don't know how good Wooten is, check him on youtube, you'll gasp).
Better than any of Fleck's own set were his guest turns during Hornsby's set, including "The Way It Is," and "Mandolin Rain." Fleck is widely regarded as one of the best banjo players in the world and it was easy to see why.
With that said, when both bands were on stage and wedged Weather Report's 1970s jazz-fusion classic "Birdland" into the middle of a bluegrass song, as part of the encore, it was tough not to be impressed. But while watching the near capacity song yell in appreciation, it was also tough not to feel a bit sad.