It was the last of a series of sold out shows at the historic Beacon Theatre, the place was packed with a lot of Baby Boomers, lots of grey hair, but we danced like nobody’s business, keeping up with the energetic 73-year-old on the stage. At this point in his career, Jackson Browne has mellowed from his activist days, when he campaigned for the environment, human rights, and arts education. Tonight was a trip down his long list of hit songs, some so popular the audience knew from the first chord, like The Pretender, and some took a while to recognize as he doodled around the piano, before he slid into the opening notes of For A Dancer.
From my vantage point, his face looked weather beaten, with grey beard, and hair still touching his collar. With his jeans and plaid button down over a dark colored tee, his banter and stage chat were just as relaxed even as the crowd from all areas of the theatre barraged him with song requests. He smiled and said he wished he could do them all, but at one point agreed to one shouted out title. Turning around to the band, he motioned for them to change plans, exchange instruments, readjust their positions; a few left the stage entirely. Browne fudged the beginning lines of Farther On, then explained it’d been a while, and then he and his slide guitar player, Greg Leisz, got in their groove and performed it flawlessly. (A peek at the set list proved that it was not part of the show.)
About midway, he introduced Leslie Mendelson, a Brooklyn-based songwriter, who he worked with on the song A Human Touch. Although Browne does not typically co-write songs, as he says it’s a long process, he agreed to the collaboration for a documentary focusing on the nurses and doctors who served in the San Francisco AIDS ward in the 80s. Browne found the documentary so moving that he felt he could add something to the song which had been penned by Mendelson. Later in the show, Brown introduced an oldie but a crowd-favorite, Take It Easy, adding that it has not been included in the past because it was co-written with the Eagles’ Glen Frey, who died in 2015.
Announcing that he was not going to take any intermission, Browne did offer the idea that if anyone had to visit the restroom, now’d be a good time. That’s a first for me as an avid concert attendee. However, given the fact that most of us grew up with the artist, we’re members of his generation. His final numbers were perfect: The Pretender, Running On Empty, then the encores: Take It Easy, The Load Out and Stay. Before leaving, he thanked the crowd for coming, for risking Covid — sharing that his band gets tested every day — and in the lyrics of The Load Out, he pays homage to his roadies, and adding “We still listen to Richard Pryor on the video.”
Upcoming events at the Beacon Theatre include Robert Plant and Alison Kraus (9/12); B-52’s (10/13-14); Marshall Tucker Band (11/3); and Jerry Seinfeld (11/18-19). msg.com/beacon-theatre.
Photos by MJ Hanley-Goff