Jackson Browne’s music has been in my life since high school. While I’ve been to thousands of rock concerts since then, I never even considered checking out Browne in live performance.
I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it’s because his music was so pervasive — especially during my young adulthood — that I felt sufficiently sated by what I heard every day on the radio. (Remember radio?)
That changed on Thursday night, when I got the chance to see Browne on his second night at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York.
Browne, who’s less than a month shy of his 67th birthday, put on an incredible show for a wildly appreciative sold-out crowd for a full 2½ hours — with only two brief encore breaks.
He never stinted, lovingly spinning the songs at times into extended jams.
Browne’s been writing songs for 50 years, producing a huge catalogue. So there’s no way he could have gotten to everybody’s favorite in a single evening. For instance, he skipped “The Pretender,” one that ranks high on my list. But it was hard to argue with his choice of any of the 20 songs. Only one — Warren Zevon’s “Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded” — wasn’t written by Browne.
But he did choose well from all periods of his career, giving the audience plenty of pleasant moments and great memories.
Browne was light on his feet, taking it is stride when he forgot some of the lyrics of “Leaving Winslow” and got back on track with the crowd’s help. It was the only obvious stumble of the evening, and he handled it with a boyish charm and grace.
Although he had a setlist, Browne changed it up once or twice of his own accord during the evening, and went with audience requests at a couple of other points.
“So whaddaya want?” he said with a smile in the second half of the evening after finishing “Looking East.” His request brought a roar from the crowd, which rained a deafening barrage of song titles on him.
“I was gonna offer you categories, like cheerful or morose,” he said with a shrug, before moving to the piano and obliging a request for “Sky Blue and Black.”
Browne is a legacy artist who could leave a lot of the hard work to others in his excellent band, but he never once flagged or seemed to lift his foot off the gas. His guitar and piano playing were skillful and heartfelt. His voice seemed nearly as strong as it eve was — showing only an occasional flash of wear and tear.
He was engaged — even turning to smile and pose for fans who reverentially snapped his photo from the aisles. Concertgoers stayed at or near their seats until Browne broke out “Doctor My Eyes,” bringing a flood of people to the edge of the stage who remained there through the subsequent three encore tunes” “Running on Empty,” his Glenn Frey co-write “Take It Easy,” and a perfectly appropriate closer, ‘The Load-Out.”
Larry Campbell, the veteran pedal- and lap-steel player who’s in Browne’s band, opened the evening in a duo with his wife, Teresa Williams, sharing a beautiful 30-minute set of country music, including a Louvin Brothers number and “Samson and Delilah,” the traditional tune popularized by The Grateful Dead — perhaps a nod to the Cap’s long association with the Dead and related bands.
In a testament to his hands-on approach to his shows, Browne surprisingly strolled onstage to introduce the openers.
See the full setlist below.
Jackson Browne Setlist, Sept. 16, 2015, Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, New York
- The Barricades of Heaven
- Just Say Yeah
- The Long Way Around
- Leaving Winslow
- These Days
- My Opening Farewell
- Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded (Warren Zevon)
- For Everyman
- I’m Alive
- Late for the Sky
- For a Dancer
- Fountain of Sorrow
- Which Side?
- Standing in the Breach
- Looking East
- Sky Blue and Black
- Doctor My Eyes
- [Encore Break]
- Running on empty
- Take It Easy
- [2nd Encore Break]
- The Load-Out