Years ago someone gave me a copy, originally taped from a radio broadcast, of a 1975 Jackson Browne show from The Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA. It’s a loose, spirited performance full of interaction with the crowd, some interesting covers, and a vibrant energy throughout. This is not that show. This is, however, a 1973 Browne performance recorded at the same venue. Happily, it has the same engaging, good times vibe.
Browne’s early ‘70s concerts often cast him in a different light from the serious, sensitive singer-songwriter of his albums. He performed those kinds of songs – “These Days”, “Song For Adam”, “Colors of the Sun” – but he also threw in covers of ‘50s and ‘60s rock nuggets and often told humorous, sometimes surreal, stories between songs. He’s accompanied here (as he is on the 1975 show) by multi-instrumentalist David Lindley. The two musicians act as foils for each other, a palpable camaraderie between them, with Lindley spurring Browne on to greater heights than if he was in a solo context.
Another factor in this performance is The Main Point itself. The venue, a small coffeehouse which closed its doors in 1981, seemed to engender exemplary performances in its acts, as evidenced by circulating shows by other artists such as Springsteen, Raitt, and Buffett – performers who sell out concert halls and stadiums these days but were young and hungry when they played The Main Point.
Browne was touring his first album at this time, and even though it was doing well, he was nowhere near as known as he is today (or than he would be within a few years). He kicks the show off with “Take It Easy”, a song the audience would have been familiar with as an Eagles song. Even though he co-wrote “Take It Easy” he wouldn’t release his version until later in the year on his second album. This Main Point rendition is dynamic, even with the stripped down sound of just Browne’s guitar and Lindley’s pedal steel.
The remainder of the show is a combination of songs from that first, self-titled, album, new songs from For Everyman (which was due in October), and covers including Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” and Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” Browne often promoted lesser known songwriters that were friends of his by covering their songs in concert, as well. Here he sings J.D. Souther’s “Jesus in ¾ Time”. Souther would co-write many Eagles songs and have a hit of his own later in the decade with “You’re Only Lonely”.
Lindley adds tasteful mandolin to “These Days” and temporarily steals the show with a scorching fiddle tune called “Reel of the Hanged Man”. The crowd sing-a-long and Lindley’s high soprano vocal duet on the encore of ”Runaway” ends things on a raucous note before Browne closes the show with the ruminative “My Opening Farewell”.
This is, as the CD back cover professes, a historic document in Browne’s discography – and Southern California country-rock in general. Let’s hope more of his live performances from this ‘70s heyday will be released over time.