Concert Review: Jackson Browne – May 17, 2011, Jackson, Mississippi
It was a little like sitting in your living room listening to an old friend play music. He finishes a song, you make a request. Can you do this one? Okay. What about this one? Fine. That one? No, can’t do it, need a band. But I can do this one, do you like it? On this past Tuesday night in Jackson, the living room seated about 2300 people and the old friend was Jackson Browne.
Mr. Browne was a bit under the weather, recovering from a cold, but he appeared game for a full night of playing and singing for a crowd of former hippies and former yuppies (mostly the latter). It was not an evening for youth. Almost all the audience seemed old enough to remember the release of Running On Empty, if not Mr. Browne’s earlier albums. As the song says: “’69 I was 21, I called the road my own,” meaning that Clyde Jackson Browne will turn 63 in October. He doesn’t look it, though. It’s the hair, the eternal hair, which makes him look so young. The hair looks a lot like it did when I first saw him back in 1978 (there’s a post about that concert here). Mr. Browne has shaved the gray beard he had for a while, and looks great. When he strolled out onto the stage of Thalia Mara Hall, wearing a black shirt and jeans, he looked 40ish, not 60ish.
The living room comparison is not an overstatement. From the beginning, Mr. Browne made it clear that he wanted input from the audience about the songs he would sing. “There’s no set list,” he said. Once the crowd understood shouted requests were okay, they shouted requests. This part was a bit off-putting for me, but who cares what I thought. Mr. Browne seemed to like it, conversing with the audience about their requests. The stage was set up with about 20 guitars lined up across the middle and a seat on our left. Keyboards were on the right. Sometimes he would change his mind in mid-intro and play a different song, even if it meant moving from the keyboards to guitar or vice versa. The informality personalized the experience for the audience, making us feel like we were really getting to know Mr. Browne . . . er, Jackson. He seemed relaxed with us, too. At one point, he had to re-start a song because his voice wasn’t ready. At another point, he momentarily forgot the words to Take It Easy. “That’s one for the books,” he said, reminding us that he did in fact write the song. No one seemed to care. Like your friend giving the private concert, all is forgiven because you know and love the guy. This crowd loved Mr. Browne.
A word about Mr. Browne’s musicianship is in order. We know him mainly as a singer-songwriter, strumming the guitar or playing keyboards while singing. The musicians in his bands over the years have been so good, there’d be no reason for him do otherwise. One of the things that came shining through during this “Solo Acoustic” show was that he handles the guitar well, picking out some nice solos on several of the songs. He even played a little slide guitar on one.
Several moments from the show:
Early in the show Mr. Browne thought someone was requesting Cocaine, and though he commented that it seemed early in the evening for it, he played the “rehab version” as the third song of the concert. Later, he heard what he thought was the same request again and commented on it. As he was about to start another song, he realized that the voice was requesting that he play Rosie. He ditched whatever he was about to sing and played it, being careful to remind us with a smile that while most of his songs were “all about me,” Rosie was not.
Mr. Browne played Warren Zevon’s song Don’t Let Us Get Sick. Part the way through, he chuckled to himself. After the song, he explained: Years ago, Mr. Zevon sent him a Polaroid, taken in Jackson, Mississippi. The photo, “obviously staged,” depicted Mr. Zevon laying half in and out of the street, leaning up against a trash can with the words “Keep Jackson Beautiful” written on it. Mr. Browne said it was one of his most prized possessions.
While singing Little Steven’s I Am A Patriot, Mr Browne amended the “I ain’t no Democrat” line slightly to say that maybe he was a Democrat. That brought laughter, and was the only political reference of the evening.
Mr. Browne told the story behind the lyrics of Something Fine. In the past, when playing this song, which has the words, “You say Morocco, and that makes me smile,” he would mention that Morocco was the Amsterdam of his youth. At this show, however, he told of traveling to London years ago to record and having the shared use of a house there with an “unattainable” woman from California. They only had a limited time together (during which there was an earthquake back in California) but apparently used that time well, giving rise to the title of the song.
Here’s a very nice video of Mr. Browne and David Lindley doing Something Fine back in 1976. Note the hair (and the lyrics, too):
Here’s the set list for the Jackson, MS show:
Barricades Of Heaven
Late For The Sky
Cocaine (“Rehab” version)
Don’t Let Us Get Sick
Love Needs A Heart
I Am A Patriot
Your Bright Baby Blues
Here Come Those Tears Again
For A Dancer
Rock Me On The Water
Giving That Heaven Away
Take It Easy
In The Shape Of A Heart
Fountain Of Sorrow
You Love The Thunder
Running On Empty
Before The Deluge
Sky Blue And Black
At the end, Mr. Browne apparently intended to play a single-song encore. However, when he finished Before The Deluge (without mentioning the Great Flood of 2011), he was about to walk off stage when an audience member reminded him that he had failed to deliver on an earlier promise to play Sky Blue And Black. So he sat down and played it, a fitting end to this informal concert. I’d say Jackson, Mississippi, would welcome Jackson Browne to its living room anytime he wants to come.
You can follow Mando Lines on Twitter @mando_lines.