Jackson Browne cuts a wide swath when he walks into town. He plants one foot on the neck of today’s politicians and the other firmly in the romantic nostalgia of the 1970’s. He wears his progressive anti-war, eco-progressivism on one sleeve and his St. Augustine introspection on the other. Tying all this together is his timeless gift for melding music and lyrics in ways that beguile and provoke and strike emotional nerves.
Whether it is now (why so many live in poverty and others live as kings ) or then (longing for the legal tender), Browne moved seamlessly from his latest work on Standing In The Breach to his classic The Pretender throughout the evening.
The upscale audience was sitting on their hands until he moved to the piano and went to the first greatest hits segment. He woke them up with These Days and For Everyman and after a dash back to the present with You Know The Night, it was into the vault with For A Dancer and Fountain of Sorrow.
At the midpoint of a US tour, Browne’s band was tight as a tick and the lighting cues were faster than I could move my binoculars: Bob Glaub on bass, Mauricio Lewak on Drums. Jeff Young on Hammond organ and piano, Greg Leisz on lap/pedal steels and guitar (a 12-string for a Byrds tribute song) and Val McCallum,whose riffs on any one of his eight guitars would have been worth the price of admission.
This group gave Browne’s songs a distinctly country sound compared to his earlier studio albums and that reinforced the everyman images that his writing evokes.
Browne looks (and sounds) as if he stepped out of the 70s although his voice is deeper. But he remains unaffected by fame (and 18 million albums sold), chatting with the audience about how he came to write songs like Winslow or how much he liked the venue: ‘This is a very special place to hear music, you can hear a pin drop.” It felt like he dropped into your living room to play a few songs.
His wry new take on life in Long Way Round (from “Breach”) echoed much of his more familiar work:
Now I’m a long way gone
Down this wild road I’m on
It’s going to take me where I’m bound
But it’s the long way around.
The segue to These Days defied the passage of so many decades
These days I sit on corner stones
And count my time in quarter tones to ten, my friend
Don’t confront me with my failures
I have not forgotten them.
The second set was just as strong a mix of the old and the new. The audience was on its feet for The Pretender and then drowning him out on the chorus of Running on Empty.
It is reassuring to see that Jackson Browne still has a tank full of high test emotions and that his songs still hold up a mirror up to our generation.
I’ve been aware of the time going by
They say in the end, it’s the blink of an eye
And when the morning light comes streaming in
You’ll get up and do it again