Sunday, April 6, 2008
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.)
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:
Posted by Austin Fleming at 10:46 PM