Runnin N2 the sun – Jackson Browne @ RAH

April 29th, 2009

Outta the red, and into the sun

Outta the red, and into the sun

Jackson Browne, at the Royal Albert Hall for his “Time the Conqueror” tour, played to a full house on Easter Monday. Will wonders never cease? The gig was split into two acts. Everyone in their seats was nodding along, with hands folded politely in their collective lap, to witness a formidable pop guru resurrect himself from their golden age – how very civilised, how very 50 something. I’m sure they all felt it, right here (points to chest) where it counts. The silent reverence b/w songs was underwhelming, but luckily JB always had a charming little aside to throw in, and he did actually lure out the frozen 20 somethings nearly buried in the body of the audience.

Act One kicked off with “Boulevard” and finished up with a “Doctor my Eyes”/”Imagination”medley. Act Two shut down with “Pretender”, closely followed by his global smash hit of all time “Running on Empty” – all vintage pop classics, of course. In between was rather formulaic samey stuff from the new album this tour is promoting … w some exceptions

Ol JB got a bit controversial, as he introduced “Goin Down to Cuba”, by pointing out the irony – how very un-American – of his home country’s v un-American, Soviet-style embargo – perceived by this reviewer as perfectly timed in light of recent developments in the Obama admin.

“Lives in the Balance” – Spanish Samba-esque. JB explained that it’s been dragged out from obscurity at the behest of his youngest son, Ryan. Catherine, my lovely companion, said it was her personal fave that night.

“Don’t Ya Know” – “… Jesse Helms don’t have to know…”

“These Days” – The only song performed which had involving the fab backing singers in the studio, JB explained – I swear they upstaged him offstage in every song. He gave them special mention because they had had to finish early, in the recording studio, on school nights – charmant!

All very worthy, though not terribly exciting. I heard the rebel in JB’s voice but the musical vehicle was just not with it. Was he trying to be Brechtian? Was it a rush job to finish the final album on his 20 million album deal – doubtless signed when he was young and exploitable? Well, no, JB owns his own label now. Some of the best stuff here – aside from his global radio hits – was in the acoustic, scaled down numbers, partially because I could hear the words. I blame the band for this gig not being all that it could – but not those beautiful backing singers, or the multi-keyboard intrumentalist who also sang along like an angel. The others were of the typical sesh muso variety, though. I would swear the guitarist played the same solo at every “break-it-down” moment in the set. The drummer never melted in with the others, nor did he command them. The bassist plodded along, and I know I’ve seen him at other stadium gigs. Not exactly true musical fidelity from these 3 stooges.

To credit JB’s showmanship properly, he had rallied the painfully sedate audience into yelling out requests from his immense back catalogue by the middle of the 2nd act. At the pentultimate song of this gig, they were up on their feet and many rushed down to the front of the seated audience to fervently perform their favourite prom dance. To top it off, Jackson Browne, musical superstar, actually tripped over the wires onstage as he waved goodbye from “Running on Empty” – bravo! You can take the boy out of Orange County. The show had just begun for my money – tho I did have comps.

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