Concert review: Jackson Browne at Pier Six Pavilion
Sun writer Nick Madigan saw Jackson Browne at Pier Six Pavilion. Here is his review:
Jackson Browne was never the kind of performer to call attention to himself.
For four decades, and without fanfare, he has been delivering his heartfelt tributes to enlightenment and lost love to packed houses of the faithful, all the while doing his utmost to avoid the harshest of the public spotlight's glare.
That reticence, born of profound and often sorrowful introspection, was never more clear than on Tuesday night, at Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion. Pairing up once again with his longtime collaborator David Lindley — the virtuoso stringman who was at his side for much of his early career — Browne not only started off with songs by other composers, Warren Zevon and Bruce Springsteen, but ceded the stage entirely to Lindley after just four numbers.
However, upon returning with his full band after an intermission, Browne — still improbably youthful at 61 — proved that the vagaries of age and the passage of time have dimmed neither his energy nor the pleasure he takes in his adherents' adulation, even if much of his audience — this reviewer included — long ago sprouted gray hair and crow's feet ...
Before the concert, talk in the crowd had turned to Browne's resilience.
"The question is, do people like him still have the voice?" asked Greg Dunn, in tie-dye shirt and beard, who recalled being at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia when Browne and Lindley recorded part of the album "Running on Empty" in August 1977. "David Crosby's voice is almost gone," Dunn said, "and the Grateful Dead never could sing, so it wasn't an issue."
As Tuesday's concert progressed, any doubts about Browne's vocal stamina were laid firmly to rest, as Dunn acknowledged when it was all over. With "In the Shape of a Heart," Browne stirringly aroused memories of vanished affections, while a wrenching version of "Your Bright Baby Blues" brought even the most vocal chatterboxes in the audience to silence, its lyrics a haunting echo of youthful misdirection — "No matter how fast I run / I can never seem to get away from me / no matter where I am / I can't help feeling / I'm just a day away from where I want to be."
With that song, the band achieved a clarity and direction it had only hinted at in the earlier numbers after almost a week's break from its U.S. tour. At the conclusion of "Fountain of Sorrow," a seminal Browne track in which he laments that the "magic feeling never seems to last," the crowd jumped to its collective feet, uproariously, and would keep doing so through a succession of songs from Browne's well established canon, including "The Pretender," "For a Dancer," "Doctor My Eyes" and "Rock Me on the Water."
Still, there remained the feeling that, by sticking largely to songs everyone knows — admittedly a demand habitually made on perennial performers — Browne was leaving some of his most adroit and evocative songs on the shelf, a missed opportunity to give voice to gems recorded long ago and sitting idle in record collections.
The audience at Pier Six seemed not to mind, though, and was particularly amused by Browne's famously artful gifts as between-songs raconteur. Explaining that he had just flown in from California after the break in the tour, he said the couple sitting in front of him on the plane had spent the whole flight in amorous pursuits. "Were there blankets involved?" Lindley asked him.
"Turns out there were not only blankets involved," Browne replied, "but there was a small dog involved, too."
(Photos by Nick Madigan)