Jackson Browne - 19 March 2018, The State Theatre, Sydney
Last night I experienced one of those events that will probably be the last of its kind. We went to see Jackson Browne at the State Theatre in Sydney. My friend Pete got me into JB in about 1973 or 1974. The first song of his that I recall resonating with me was Song For Adam from the eponymously titled Jackson Browne album. Once I was into Song For Adam I was a convert, pretty much a die-hard fan. I was pleased that Macman played You Love The Thunder on his 2EARFM show this Wednesday.
Above: Jackson Browne: the 1977 version (Source: Wikimedia)
I have seen JB several times before (at least twice with my friend Pete) but the last time was about 30 years ago, in or around 1987 when I went not with Pete but instead with at least one other person, a Canadian woman called Pat Chisholm. I am pretty sure the concert was at the Hammersmith Odeon and I remember being at the front leaning on the stage while he played The Load Out/Stay (which he did not play the other night). I wonder what happened to Pat Chisholm. But wherever she is JB is 70 this year and while he and I might both keep on keeping on (and no doubt running on empty) there is a significant probability that I shall not see him live on stage again. Though, of course, never say never.
He was good, as I expected him to be. In fact, he was better than good. It was an excellent show. He opened with Before The Deluge which is from 1974’s Late For The Sky which is the first of his albums that I really got into. He finished with Our Lady Of The Well from 1972’s For Everyman. He came back on to do his encore, in that carefully stage-managed way that these artistes do that encore thing, and played Take It Easy and encouraged the audience to join in. On For Everyman, Take It Easy segues into Our Lady Of The Well and that's how he played the two songs. The band was good; it included a couple of young female singers whose voices were just right for the backing on songs like Before The Deluge and The Pretender. David Lindley, whose signature pedal steel and slide guitar was the backbone of the early JB albums, was not there though of course JB mentioned him several times. “The thing about music,” Lindley is alleged by JB to have said “is that it is supposed to be good.”
When he did Running On Empty he had modified the third verse. In the first verse he sings “In ’65 I was seventeen …” and in the second verse he sings “In ’69 I was twenty-one … “. Those are the lyrics. But in the third verse he sang “In ’17 I was 69, I don’t know how that happened.” And of course, he was 69 in 2017 and, like the rest of us, he didn’t know how that happened.
David Lindley’s place was taken by a fellow on pedal steel who doubled on guitar and who did, indeed, play some wonderful Lindley-like solos. There was a great drummer, organist and lead guitarist but I was delighted to see that elder statesman of West Coast Rock, Bob Glaub, on bass guitar. Glaub had played bass on The Pretender from 1976 (Leland Sklar also played bass on that). Anyway, Bob was there with a flat cap and sounding really good. The band played These Days (also from For Everyman) in the first set. Then someone shouted for him to perform For A Dancer. I remember being with my pal Pete at a JB concert years ago where someone asked him to play this song, which is about the death by suicide of his first wife, and he refused. But this time he changed his set list and sat down at the piano saying “well, this song is even more down than the last one (i.e. These Days)” and he belted it out. Brilliant. Also brilliant was Red-Necked Friend from Late For The Sky. Other highlights included his latest recording, The Dreamer, which I expect to be on a forthcoming album and is, of course a protest against Trump’s DACA intentions. I was surprised and delighted to hear a rendition of Linda Paloma from 1976’s The Pretender and we enjoyed the version The Birds Of St Marks from 2014’s Standing In The Breach.
I had been chatting to my youngest daughter on the way down to the concert and I had predicted that he would play a Warren Zevon song. I had thought that he would play Mohammed’s Radio. At one point the guitar tech handed him a dobro and he said, “we’ll have to do some Warren Zevon.” There was some surprisingly and disappointingly muted applause before he launched into Bright Baby Blues (also from The Pretender). But he did return to Warren Zevon and produced a massive version of Lawyers Guns and Money. I texted my daughter the morning after this morning to tell her and, because all my children were genetically modified to know all Warren Zevon’s lyrics she immediately texted back “How was I to know she was with the Russians too?”
I am prone to nostalgia and even though they say that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, I think a bit of it does you good. Jackson Browne was clearly older, he was perhaps a little more gaunt than I remember him but his voice sounds the same as it did 40 years ago. For a few moments I was at the Hammersmith Odeon in my 30s with my life ahead of me rather than with my life behind me. But then this is the power of rock; it keeps you young. You may not be too late to see Jackson. He plays Canberra on 28 March, Melbourne on 29 March and Brisbane on 1 April. Buy your tickets and get on that Editors Note: In an announcement that will make a lot of fans very happy, the Byron Bay Bluesfest has added Jackson Browne to the 2018 festival.
Above: Jackson Browne and David Lindley performing "Something Fine" on the Old Grey Whistle Test in London 1976 - for Butchy