A Jackson Browne concert isn’t just a concert. It’s a visit with a legend. Browne was part of that seminal 70s L.A. crowd of rockers (The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, et al) who made music history, leaving an indelible mark. This was a rare chance for Twin Citians to see any of it, since none of them do a whole lot of touring and, when they do, don’t always come through these parts. When, for instance, was the last time you heard of Browne or Ronstadt hitting town? The Eagles are the only ones within recent memory.
May 29th, at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, Jackson Browne, balladeer of privileged angst (think “The Pretender”), made up the show he missed earlier in the month due to a turn of bad health that left him, as he put it, “sounding like I was barking.” The audience appreciated his saying he wanted to perform at full strength. Then, they got to sit back and thoroughly enjoy a strong outing.
It was a solo show, which, gifted artistry aside, had drawbacks. Without a band, Browne strips down to basics—the artist and his instrument. That laid bare the fact that too many of his melodies sound the same and that he gets locked into, from one number to the next, a fairly plodding tempo.
Highlights, to be sure, shined. For instance, “Rock Me on the Water,” “These Days,” “Your Bright Baby Blues,” and the profoundly disquieting “Fountain of Sorrow.” Browne is nothing if not a brilliant lyricist. As in, “Now for you and me it may not be that hard to reach our dreams/ But that magic feeling never seems to last/ And while the future’s there for anyone to change, still you know it’s seems/ It would be easier sometimes to change the past.” The refrain haunts: “Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light/ You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight/ You’ve had to hide sometimes, but now you’re all right / And it’s good to see your smiling face tonight.” He also did a couple cuts by friend and imitator Warren Zevon, including a sparkling take on Zevon’s dry, witty “Mohammed’s Radio.”
The evening was one of those nights the audience isn’t likely to forget. Not for a long time. Jackson Browne played clean, sang rich and clear, in his trademark semi-rustic vocal style. He sent his fans home with a fine memory.