Jackson Browne

Live Shot

Phases & Stages
Photo by Gary Miller

Jackson Browne

ACL Live at the Moody Theater, May 13

In 1992, I witnessed an audience behaving badly. Neil Young had just come off a period of "Rockin' in the Free World" and touring with Sonic Youth. As he tends to do, ol' Neil switched gears and wrote a bunch of songs that became Harvest Moon, a nice, quiet follow-up to one of his biggest selling albums ever even though it was 20 years later. Before it came out, he did some solo shows, including a run at the Beacon Theatre in New York. At the show I attended, no one was the least bit interested in songs they hadn't heard and the crowd was boisterous in its disapproval to the point of embarrassment. That show came to mind during Jackson Browne's appearance at the Moody Theatre on Friday the 13th. Onstage was a rack containing 18 acoustic guitars, an electric piano, and a couple of chairs. Browne, 62, came out looking as youthful as ever and jumped into what's become a regular set opener, "The Barricades of Heaven," a wistful bit of nostalgia. When he finished, a torrent of requests and other comments were unleashed, one that didn't let up in the more than two hours Browne performed. What should have been a relaxed evening with one of America's best songwriters became a frightful ordeal with close to 2,700 drunks. Browne, to his credit, took it all in stride, interacting a bit and playing some of the songs that were being demanded. He even paid tribute to Warren Zevon by covering two of his departed friend's songs, "Don't Let Us Get Sick" and "Mohammed's Radio," the latter a duet with local heroine Shawn Colvin. One interesting moment came when Browne spoke about traveling to Cuba with his band and the difficulties that such a trip entailed. "We went as a religious group," he quipped. Otherwise, maybe it's the case that I've spent too much time at the Cactus Cafe, where the person onstage is allowed to do their show their way without heckling or the bellowing of requests. Maybe high ticket prices these days have emboldened audiences in their demands and expectations. Friday night I thought the guy in my section of the balcony that had been screaming for "The Pretender" all night at the top of his lungs was going to explode when the song appeared near the show's end. The Southern Californian responded with two encores, so he must have felt all right with it. The second, "Before the Deluge," was a calming force to a fitful night, one that would have been a lot more beautiful with a lot less audience participation.

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