Despite cold, Jackson Browne delights at the Pavilion

A review of Jackson Browne at the Bank of America Pavilion on August 28, 2010

, Contributing Writer

It was a grizzled crowd that showed up to the Bank of America Pavilion on Saturday night to welcome Jackson Browne and his band – the faces free of wrinkles and crow’s feet were few and far between – but Browne’s voice sounded as young as ever, and he and his backing band provided for an enjoyable night with their classic rock that sports just a hint of country.

The night started off with Browne and guitarist/longtime friend David Lindley sharing the stage for a brief acoustic set. It was Lindley who enjoyed the spotlight for this portion of the show, delivering the bluesy lyrics of Warren Zevon’s “Seminole Bingo” with his Dylan-esque voice. The two shared a pleasant harmony with Browne providing backing vocals, content to play rhythm for his longtime friend. Next came a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Brothers Under the Bridge.” Lindley can’t really pull of the elongated notes that Springsteen masters, but the song didn’t suffer too much. After taking the lead with “For Everyman” and “Looking East”, Browne ceded the stage to Lindley, who delivered an emotive rendition of “Soul of a Man”. The last few songs featured his oud, a Middle Eastern ancestor to the guitar. He does an impressive job tailoring its sound to his style of music, while still retaining some of that Middle Eastern flair.

After a brief intermission, Browne returned with his backing band for the night’s main set. He had warned fans earlier that he was fighting a throat cold, and had decided to play through it instead of canceling the performance – for which the audience was grateful. “Any straining sounds were part of my style anyway,” he joked. There were some painfully obvious moments where his voice cracked over the course of the night, but fans were forgiving.

It did take a while for Browne and his band to get warmed up, and “Off of Wonderland”, “Giving That Heaven Away”, and “Just Say Yeah” didn’t elicit much more than modest applause. These first few songs featured multiple solos from keyboardist Jeff Young, which didn’t really help to get things going – Young’s chords and fillers are an integral part of many of Browne’s songs, but his solos aren’t breathtaking by any means. It took David Lindley’s return for “Your Bright Baby Blues” to provide that spark of energy that allowed both band and audience to start enjoying themselves. His first solo, which made excellent use of the slide, received a standing ovation, and from then on the songs really came to life. Drummer Mauricio Lewack especially enjoyed the renewed vigor; his head must have been bouncing up and down as much as the cymbals he was pounding on. Lindley had several rousing solos throughout the set, most notably in “Doctor My Eyes,” “Mercury Blues”, and an acoustic solo in a cover of Zevon’s “Carmelita”.

Throughout the show, Browne kept the vibe very engaging and frequently chatted in between songs. Whether he was poking fun at his sore throat, mocking Lindley’s love of polyester shirts, or advocating the importance of keeping plastic waste out of our oceans (the Pavilion recently installed Brita water fountains to encourage the use of reusable bottles), Browne displayed the casual friendliness of a longtime buddy who just happens to be a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. He gave an especially humorous introduction to “My Problem is You”, comparing the title to other songs which rock artists write for their girlfriends.

The unsung hero of the night was guitarist Mark Goldenberg. He might not be quite as talented as Lindley, but his solos add to the rock element of Browne’s music, while Lindley’s are more folk-based. Like the rest of the band, he did take a while to get going, and his solos in songs like “In the Shape of a Heart” and “Fountain of Sorrow” were a bit lifeless – but his riffs in “Doctor My Eyes” and Browne’s big hit “Running on Empty” had the crowd on their feet, dancing and head-banging.

For diehard Browne fans, the set also included “The Pretender”, “Rock Me on the Water”, “Too Many Angels”, and an enjoyable rendition of “Take It Easy”. Though it’s been decades since Jackson Browne’s glory days of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s – when he released three multi-Platinum albums over the course of four years – he still sounds great at 61 years old, and performs even better, even when battling a throat cold.

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