Solo, acoustic...

The concerts I usually go to feature a symphony orchestra or choral group (or both) on stage. That's where my tastes lead me- although some good jazz also holds my attention, too.

So, how did I end up in some very fine seats at the Providence Performing Arts Center on Friday night for a - Jackson Browne concert? Two years ago no recording by this singer could be found in my collection of tapes and CD's. (Yes, I still have cassette tapes!) But a friend began occasionally sending me lyrics from Browne songs he thought I might like - and he was right. Right enough that a fair number of this artist's recordings are now lined up near my trusty Bose. (For a listen, click to the Jackson Browne site.)

Then one day I get an email from my friend, "I knew the day would come! Jackson's going to be in Providence!" With laser speed and accuracy, plans were made and the tickets ordered.

Friday night I found myself in a sold-out house of Jackson Browne fans. I was definitely a newbie in the crowd. I was possibly the only one there who couldn't identify a song within two measures of the guitar intro. These folks love Jackson Browne and didn't hold back on shouting out their affection throughout the evening. (Added bonus: two rows ahead of us a couple from the parish - BIG Jackson fans!)

Browne was alone on stage with a rank of no fewer than 15 acoustic guitars. I'm pretty sure he didn't use them all - but they were there if he wanted them. There was also an electronic piano on which he accompanied himself about half the time. (Gotta ask my friend: why the e-keyboard? Certainly the performer and the Performing Arts Center could have chipped in for a Steinway...)

From listening to my own discs at home I recognized most of the songs (only further along than the opening chord). One thing that really pleased me was that although the vast majority knew these songs inside out - they did NOT sing along with the performer. (Yup - I hate it when that happens!)

If you don't know Browne in performance, let me tell you he's a great entertainer. Very laid back and low key: within a few minutes you begin to feel like he invited you and some friends over for a few drinks and while you're sitting around talking, he pulls out his guitar (or 15 of them) and sings a few tunes, talking about the songs and letting you know he's genuinely pleased that you stopped by. Never met the man but he strikes me as someone without guile or ego.

I was interested in a story he told of a South American interviewer who asked a blunt question about all his songs sounding very much alike. I've thought about this before because, indeed, there's a very strong Jackson Browne sound or style that's pretty unmistakable in most of his composition. But it strikes me that he is first of all a poet. Friday night was really a poetry reading, except that this poet chooses to sing his poems. The music is a vehicle for the poetry and the music is something like van Gogh's brush strokes - of a kind, recognizable, in some ways the same in every painting - but neither rote nor boring. Of course, in some sense all lyricists are poets but there's something very much worth listening to here, an insight into the human experience that the artist has lived, deeply.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and it makes me want to listen again to the recordings I have with a picture in mind and a memory of the man who wrote these songs.

So, that's how I came to be at a Jackson Browne concert on Friday night - and I hope he swings through New England again!

And here's one my of favorite Jackson Browne tunes. It reaches way back - but I love it.

(The Providence Performing Arts Center is a glorious old theater (hit the link and take the virtual tour) and if you're in the area you might enjoy drinks and dinner at McFadden's, only a few blocks away.)


Post Scripts
The photo at the top of the post is not from the Providence concert, although that's what the RI stage set up looked like. Jackson is now sporting a healthy beard! Some are having difficulty with the link, "tunes" - others are getting through. (It's working ok here at home base.) Here's where the link brings you:


  1. When I click on "tunes", it can't connect. What is the name of your favorite tune?

  2. I LOVE Jackson Brown songs! The "Pretender" lyrics are an important message for all of us "....get up and do it again, amen". "Runnin' on Empty" is another JB song so very relevant today as back, what 20 years ago(?). The lyrics are a summary of my current state of affairs...not only is my gas tank on fumes, many days I feel like I am "on empty" literally working myself to exhaustion to keep food on the table. Thankful to have a job but are we all just being driven a bit mad these days. Oh well, enough from me. Thanks for this topic that is a great respite from my usual Sunday evening, anticipating the work week tension/anxiety attack. Actually, danced around the room with the sound on my laptop cranked up.

  3. I cannot connect either. What is your favorite Jackson Browne tune? I'll look it up to listen to it. I'm also a fan.

  4. I can get this, but JB says about 4-5 words, then there is a pause, then 4-5 words, then a pause. It is too frustrating to try to listen at that speed. Glad you had such a fun evening, CP!

  5. I'd say your computer is downloadling slowly. I think you'll find that if you let it go at the stop-and-go speed and then go back and play it from the beginning, you'll get a problem-free hearing.

    Anyone with more techno ability got an answer?

  6. I enjoyed the show, as well, Concord Pastor, and am glad you did!

    You put it well of Jackson’s music – “there’s something very much worth listening to here, an insight into the human experience that the artist has lived, deeply.” As Jackson said in the clip you linked, he may not be The Pretender, but part of him is, and he is able to tap into that part of him and express it such that all of us who have The Pretender in us can relate, and learn a little bit about ourselves.

    In addition to a tremendous self-awareness, there is a real spirituality in Jackson Browne’s lyrics. Many of his writings deal with heartbreak, loss, and death, and some find that depressing. Quite the contrary, I say. He deals with the hard topics but finds hope and purpose in the challenges of life. A favorite of mine is the ending of “For A Dancer,” one of many Browne songs dealing with the death of a friend, yet he concludes as such:

    “Into a dancer you have grown
    From a seed somebody else has thrown;
    Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own;
    And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go,
    May lie a reason you were alive
    But you'll never know.”

    The Solo/Acoustic concert format serves Browne well. If his goal was, as he says in “Running on Empty,” to “get you to smile before I leave,” mission accomplished.

  7. Concord Pastor you are truly a study in contrasts! You have the most eclectic tastes for which I am very grateful because you share them with us through this blog! In a million years I would never have pegged you as a Jackson Browne fan!
    However, I am glad you are because it moved me to listen to some of his music on iTunes and download some of it to my iPod. Thanks!

  8. I am a Jackson Browne fan, too. A very good friend of mine is a huge fan and got me interested in him. We saw a similar concert in, I think Springfield, MA. My friend sings and plays the guitar and piano and I love it when he sings Jackson Browne songs. I have a lot of favorites, one is 'Fountain of Sorrow'. I work with young children and I have a CD with Jackson Browne singing 'Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight' (medley) that I like to play.
    Thank you for this.

  9. So that's who wrote those songs I really like! Wow. How come I never put it together before? Oh, well. I just nibbled through the samples on his site and ordered the 2-disc "Very Best of..."

    Thanks for making the connection for me after all these years!

  10. Just part of the full-service blog your ConcordPastor tries to provide!

  11. Congratulations on joining the ranks of passionate Jackson Browne fans. Ever since his first album came out when I was in college I have waited with eager anticipation for new recordings and live performances from Jackson and sometimes these were five or years apart! I agree that his writings carry a lot of spiritual overtones- listen to "Rock me on the Water"; For a Dancer, or "Don't you want to be There"- I would hope my family would use these for my funeral mass- they speak of the promise we all believe in for our next life.

  12. Hello there from the UK , Yes Jackson has many dedicated fans over the pond also . Although following Jackson over the years as taken my wife and i to many wonderful places , Milan , Dublin , London , New york , and best of all Sedona Arizona , Jackson is a great excuse to travel .
    I loved reading your review and just wanted to say so
    All the best Stuat

  13. Stuat: glad to hear from you! I'm pleased and amazed that the link to my review of Jackson in Providence, RI continues to draw readers here for a look-see. Thanks for your kind words!


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