WC’s buddy, Joe, has a younger brother. We’ll call him A.D. WC was visiting Joe at his family’s home once, in 1969 or 1970, and A.D. had the headphones on. WC asked A.D. how it was going, and he answered, “Not so hot, but Jackson Browne makes it tolerable.”
And there isn’t an idealistic, reflective guy my age who wasn’t seriously rattled by the lyrics to “The Pretender,” on a quiet evening after a beer or two.
And we’ll fill in the missing colors
In each other’s paint by number dreams
Ouch, even today, 40 years later.
Jackson Browne burst on the west coast music scene in 1970, after a brief stint with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. His self-titled first album, included “Doctor My Eyes“, “Rock Me on the Water“, “Jamaica Say You Will” and “Song for Adam,” all intensely personal songs with brilliant music. For WC, each of the next four albums was even stronger: For Everyman (1973), Late for the Sky (1974), The Pretender (1976) and Running on Empty (1977). His subsequent albums tended to be more overtly political, but WC owns all of them, listens to all of them and has always found something to like in each of them
And through those 44 years of albums, Jackson Browne has stayed true to his core values: freedom, compassion, and generosity. Yes, he can be intensely political. On his most recent album, 2014’s Standing in the Breach, he sings his translation of a Carlos Varela song, “Walls and Doors,”
Ever since the world’s existed
There’s one thing that is certain
There are those who build walls
And those who open doors
You’ll agree, WC thinks, that’s fairly topical and political.
So WC jumped at the chance to see Jackson Browne live again, for the first time since his 1974 Late for the Sky tour. It was advertised as a solo show, but Browne was accompanied by the multi-talented Greg Leisz on guitar, lap slide and pedal steel. Leisz didn’t make me forget David Lindley, who played pedal steel and violin on the Late for the Sky tour 42 years earlier. But there was nothing wrong with Leisz’s playing. Or Jackson Browne’s. Amazingly, he looks and sounds pretty much the same as he did 42 years earlier. His voice isn’t quite as smooth, but of the geezer rockers that WC has seen this year, it’s the least changed.
He opened with “After the Deluge,” and worked his way through much of his songbook. There were some surprises, including “Rosie,” after explaining his mother had decided the song was about a kind of wine. Pro tip: it isn’t. He quieted the rednecks in the crowd with “My Redneck Friend,” and then got us rocking again with “Your Bright Baby Blues.”
After a break, he played “For Everyman” and then Varela’s intensely political “Walls and Doors.” Oddly, that was the only patently political or protest song of the evening. He closed the show with a string of hits, including “Doctor My Eyes,” “For a Dancer,” “The Naked Ride Home,” “Song for Adam,” “Fountain of Sorrow” and “The Pretender.” He closed, as he always does, with “Running on Empty,” and gave us “Take It Easy,” a song he co-wrote with Glenn Frey.
WC enjoyed the show immensely. Boise was the last stop of the current leg of his tour, but there was nothing tired or worn down about the show. This is a guy who may not yet have it figured out, but is willing to sing you what he’s been thinking. And do so very, very well.
In the past 12 months, WC has seen a long string of aging rocker and folkies: Elton John, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, to name just a few. You wouldn’t think Boise, Idaho would be on the concert circuit, but it seems to be. WC sends a special thanks to the promoters and venues that brought those artists. It’s been an excellent music year.
But Jackson Browne may have been the best.