Jackson Browne in Asheville - still soothing the soul of everyman!
“Everyone must have some thought that is going to pull them through somehow…” In the Great Smokey Mountains this week, Jackson Browne reminded us how often he has been that thought as he once again sung from the depths of his heart and soul to ours.
Even before the doors opened, anticipation soared as we all found renewed hope on the common ground of how his music has motivated and inspired us, marking the passage of time in our lives. “Of all the musicians through-out the years, he and Joni Mitchell speak for me" exclaimed one gentleman as he waited patiently. Another stated unequivocally that JB was his musical mentor. My own memories swirled endlessly including the many times I’d played his songs as a DJ to set the stage of keeping it real in the early 70s. How many hours had my heart ached listening in my studio as he openly challenged us to keep our love alive despite life’s trials and tribulations? How could I possibly express how much gratitude I feel remembering how he and Van Morrison’s music kept me alive living in a country where I didn’t yet speak the local language?
For those of you who may not have as many years of tears, or miles of smiles under your belt, Jackson Brown co-wrote the classic “Take It Easy” with Glen Frey of the Eagles in 1972, although that was in the second decade of establishing himself as an incredible songwriter. Close to my heart was Paul Nelson’s article of August 1980 in Rolling Stone when he said, “Why Browne is [so] special is probably a personal thing, but I’ve always suspected that those of us who admire his admittedly autobiographical art, usually find in it more about our own lives – not Jackson’s – than we’d care to convey.”
Ever humble, Jackson meandered unannounced onto a dimly lit stage where 16 guitars and his keyboard rested comfortably. That’s twice as many as even Shawn Phillips used to display, but with Jackson, you could tell it wasn’t for show. Everything about his demeanor insinuated that we had just been honored to join him for a lone jam session as if in his living-room. Starting with the reminder that we’ll be alone when redemption comes and “These Days”, he explained how he wanted to play a Warren Zevon song (around since before Jackson, but oddly unnoticed until 2 years after JB’s “Pretender” success with his album “Excitable Boy”1978) because two of his friends had just died.
“I never know what I’m going to play,” he explained after that, as many in the audience grabbed every opportunity to adamantly suggest their own play list. “I’m hearing from some of you who know my older, more obscure songs, to better known hits. At least you’re requesting my songs. For that I’m grateful”.
Has there ever been another who could so easily tweak our heart strings to feel deeply empathetic?
continually moved to make a difference!
Admitting “Rosie” was the saddest song he knew, he obliged the request, then launched into “…free me in the power of your tenderness…”; “keep a fire in your mind…”; “…wait for the tears to fall…”and “Everyman”. After that he made every woman swoon recalling a “blinding sexual encounter” with a lady he hadn’t seen in 35 years but sang a song for her about how we used to give our passions and delights away so freely. Did he know some of us didn’t? Is that why he shifted guitars for a Christmas song? We all smiled when he told us he’d been hanging around with a Mayan Indian at the time that had a serious attitude about Christianity. You could hear he’d written the song so his friend would know he saw all, but still chose to cherish his own faith and belief.
“I want to live in the world instead of my head… not behind some wall… to the captain of my doubt – taking the chances as a light… Infinite power of change in the world… To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world… to open my eyes and finally arrive…”
After singing “I’m Alive”, he made us all laugh as he responded to an audience member with “Oh, OK. I will do the ‘naked ride home’. It’s not as creepy as you think it is. Matter of fact, it’s a drinking song.” After that he further thrilled the men’s fantasies with “Take It Easy” then “A Taste of Something Fine” and “Late for the Sky”. Admitting how he was willing to break from tradition, we all chimed in as he sang the “roadie song” (The Load Out/Stay). It was all I could do not to sing “Oh won’t you stay, just a little bit longer…” at the top of my lungs from the mezzanine, but we all heard it clear as day from yesteryear.
Naturally, he reminded how power and position are created by the grace of God before “Pretender”, shared an endearing touch of Paradise and then dug deep into our nature with “Running On Empty” as a last song. We couldn’t let it go at that though – we had to bring him back. Fortunate enough to have him return for two encores, the first of which rings in my ears every time one of life’s “ah-hah” moments hits: “Doctor My Eyes” “…was I unwise to keep them open for so long?”
As far as I can remember, Jackson has been leading the way in speaking out or actively furthering worthy causes with benefits. You don’t have to be chagrined if you missed this particular concert. His website www.jacksonbrowne.com lists his upcoming solo acoustic tour dates and benefits throughout Georgia, Florida, Texas and California. Believe me, even if you have to travel a distance, it will be WELL WORTH your time!
Yummm - are you sure "blinding sexual encounters" are all in the past Jackson? ... too bad
The cause he promoted was one we can all support. He reminded us of how our seeming plastic fetish is taking over our oceans, killing much in the process. He said his tour was entirely plastic free and then soothed our souls completely with “Rock Me On the Water”. “…Oh people look around you. It’s there your hope must lie. We all must do the best we can and hang onto that Gospel power…”
Thank you from the deepest part of our souls Jackson! For many these days, there seems to be an ever-increasing pace of challenging woes facing them. As you said to Anthony DeCurtis a couple of years ago, the train is coming but thanks to you, those of us who have been listening, will continue to do our best and be the change we wish to see in the world. You have been our Dylan dear Sir. Please, don’t give up hope yourself. Let us be the thought that pulls you through - we’ll find a way to farm without harm!