Bruce Hornsby

Bruce Hornsby is promoting his box set by giving every concertgoer on his 21-city tour a copy of the Columbia Legacy compilation. Sans backing band, he worked through his songbook on a weathered Steinway grand, took requests and naturally included crowd-pleasers like "End of the Innocence."

Bruce Hornsby is promoting his box set by giving every concertgoer on his 21-city tour a copy of the Columbia Legacy compilation. Sans backing band, he worked through his songbook on a weathered Steinway grand, took requests and naturally included crowd-pleasers like “End of the Innocence.”

He’s no less an entertainer without his band the Noisemakers, yet he gave the sold-out show the feel of a living-room practice session.

Creeping playfully through long scales, the pianist rolled through melodies at times and elsewhere punched notes like Professor Longhair. He took his time, drifting and wandering between minor and major chords and jazzy time signatures. The house was silent in his pauses, and one could plainly hear his throaty hum and huffs.

Hornsby worked New York Gov. George Pataki into the lyrics of “Talk of the Town” and made up some songs on the spot — like a cautionary tale of ego about Donald Trump called “Sick Bastard.”

After making one reference to the late porn star John Holmes, Hornsby noted, “I think that’s my future — writing silly party songs.”

Bruce Hornsby

Concert Hall at Society for Ethical Culture; 800 seats, $55

Production: Presented by Metropolitan Talent. Reviewed Nov. 11, 2006.

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