Jackson Browne @ Entertainment Centre Theatre, Adelaide 22/3/2018
At 69, Jackson Browne is still maintaining his perennial hairstyle although it’s now grey and his boyish good looks have only faded slightly but his voice is noted to be slightly cracking at times tonight which he acknowledges by his admission of talking too much with guitarist Val McCallum on the plane on the day before. During the concert there are a couple of times he fluffs the words although neither requires restarts. There’s also the moment he responds to a shout of “I love you!” from the audience with, “What did you say?” removing an in-ear monitor, then explaining that it is not a hearing aid which evokes laughter from the audience. It is these moments that make it a more intimate personal show and less a paint by numbers song recital that some nostalgia shows can become.
With little fanfare, the band comes on stage and Jackson sits at the piano to start with Before the Deluge. He announces his backing vocalists as Alethea Mills and Chavonne Stewart before the next song Some Bridges. The rest of band introduced gradually during the course of two sets are the aforementioned Val McCallum; Greg Leisz playing dobro, lap steel, and pedal steel guitar; Jeff Young on Hammond organ and other keyboards; Bob Glaub on bass and Mauricio Lewak on drums. Practically every member of the band has their moment in the literal spotlight. The next couple of songs are You Love the Thunder and Long Way Round before the familiarity of FM radio staple Doctor My Eyes brings the audience to life and you could be forgiven for having mistaken this song for many years as being by Steely Dan.
Jackson voices his environmental concerns regarding the ocean as a preamble to “If I Could Be Anywhere”. He continues the theme of social issues with the most recent of the songs performed tonight, The Dreamer by contextualising the dreamers, a generation born to immigrants not knowing if they will be able stay in the United States of America. Lives in the Balance has a fourth verse on which Alethea and Chavonne take the lead vocals. Jackson moves away from the politics by introducing “These Days” as a song he wrote at 16 and again at 21, a subtle reminder of his history as a songwriter before his success as a performer. During this song, the band lends a moody atmosphere to what starts as an almost solo spot for Jackson. He describes this last song of the set as “one of my favourite songs”. Even though it’s co-written with Glenn Frey, Jackson states that he has reconciled and has finally admitted that Take It Easy is a cover of the song by the Eagles. The audience is invited to sing along and Val performs a guitar solo reminiscent of Duelling Banjos.
The first part of the longer second set includes the songs Looking East, Bright Baby Blues, Love Needs a Heart, Somebody’s Baby and Shape of a Heart. Jackson jokes about being conservative and dressing like the Amish. He queries the equivalent local term for redneck to a response of “bogan” prior to the honky tonk of Redneck Friend, which he describes as an early song.
He admits to not liking to have to make set lists although “the order does make a difference” and that Val has chosen the songs for tonight’s concert, even deferring to and seeking approval from Val when considering responding to audience requests. He then has to apologise for not being able to perform Warren Zevon’s Mr. Bad Example due to a lack of a teleprompting device although does recite the song briefly. Barricades of Heaven includes an extended pedal steel solo interlaced by Jeff Young’s Hammond playing, sounding almost like backing vocals leading to a fade out ending. A couple of Warren Zevon songs are performed, an “early desperate ballad”, Carmelita and then the later song Lawyers, Guns and Money which Jackson states shows the spectrum of Zevon’s work. There is another diversion with Sky Blue and Black, a song absent from the onstage set list. The Pretender follows this and the band is introduced again at the start of the last song Running on Empty during which Jeff Young’s Hammond organ momentarily quotes the Spencer Davis Group’s Keep on Running.
For the encore, Jackson comes back onstage alone initially to play what we subsequently learn to be an appropriate set closer but pauses and notes that they hadn’t done For a Dancer and calls the band back early for this song. The band leave again and he starts the song he was originally going to finish with, the biography of an end of a gig, The Load-Out during which the band is slowly revealed from the darkness. This song segues into Stay, giving a final chance for Alethea and Chavonne to lead on vocals as well as allowing Jeff to display his surprising vocal prowess. The audience join in and the song ends with Jackson giving us a final wave and thanks for coming out. Then it’s over and the prophetic opening lines of this final song (“Now the seats are all empty // Let the roadies take the stage”) now manifesting in the Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre as a satisfied audience make their way out into the night.
Review by Jason Leigh
Catch Jackson Browne on his remaining dates