Concert review: Jackson Browne at the Lyric Opera House
It's safe to say that nearly every rock song starts out the same way: An artist gets an idea and sits down with a guitar or keyboard to flesh it out.
The drums, bass and background singers all come later on, when the songs grow into sweeping ballads, bar anthems and the like. Every once in a while, you wonder what they sounded like when they were first written.
Last night, Jackson Browne pared back his songs for an all-acoustic solo show at the Lyric Opera House. The nearly two-and-a-half hour performance was a revealing showcase of the heralded singer/songwriter's sizable catalog.
Alone on stage for all but the encore, Browne effortlessly carried the crowd through a mix of his old and new material ...
This was a no-frills show, from the music to the lighting and stage setup. Aside from a table, a couple stools, a rack of at least 15 gorgeous acoustic guitars and a keyboard (and, of course, Browne) the stage was empty. All of the focus was on the music.
Age and perspective have added new depth to Browne's music, and his melancholy, nostalgic narratives seem more poignant than ever.
It's remarkable how little Browne has changed in the past few decades. He may be 60, but aside from some wrinkles on his face and streaks of gray in his hair, Browne looks nearly the same as he did when he debuted as a lanky, clean-shaven rock and folk singer in the early '70s. His voice is more frayed now, but last night, he was belting out the high notes on "Running on Empty" like it was 1978.
After opening with a few of his own songs, Browne played a pair from his old pal Warren Zevon -- the somber "Don't Let Us Get Sick" and the foot-stomping "Lawyers, Guns and Money."
The audience would shout requests between songs, and occasionally, Browne would play one. He broke into what he referred to as the "rehab" version of "Cocaine," complete with a few spontaneous-sounding verses about missing brain cells and such.
From "The Pretender" to "Somebody's Baby," Browne played most of his hits, as well as several lesser known songs such as "Black and White" (from 1986's "Lives in the Balance"), "Looking Into You" (from his self-titled 1972 debut) and "Giving That Heaven Away," off his most recent album, 2008's "Time the Conqueror."
During the encore, Browne brought out
a guitarist he introduced as Albert his guitar tech, Manny Alvarez for "Our Lady of the Well" and "Take it Easy" -- an upbeat finish to an impressive evening.