The timeless charm of Jackson Browne
On a somber night in Milwaukee, Jackson Browne inspired a sense of intimacy in an emotionally soothing performance at the Riverside Theater.
As a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Class of 2004) who has written and recorded such reflective hits as “Take It Easy,” “The Pretender” and “Doctor My Eyes,” it’s no surprise that Browne inspires in his fans a sense of intimacy even in larger venues like the Riverside.
Browne explained that this tour had changed from the original solo acoustic concept to include other musicians and has evolved from show to show. He seemed to invite suggestions from the audience who shouted out favorites. Many of the song choices led Browne to walk over to the stand of more than a dozen guitars and pick the appropriate one for each number he played.
Browne made no mention of current events, but there was something emotionally soothing about his performance. Certainly there’s much nostalgia in his songs but also a richness to the lyrics that has enhanced their meaning as the performer and the audience age.
The 64-year-old Browne appears to have discovered some fountain of youth; he barely looks any older than he appeared in the 1970’s. Perhaps it is the balance that his songs seem to strike between youthful exuberance and thoughtful self-doubt.
The singing and fiddle playing of opening act was Sara Watkins, a founding member of the band Nickel Creek, was a nice match with the headliner. Browne joined Watkins during her set and she and her band accompanied Browne on a number of his songs as well.
For many, Sundays are a time for spiritual reflection. Some lament that the breakdown in certain civic associations mean a decline in the glue that holds us together as a society, but the palpable sense of community at last night’s concert suggests the values we share as a community are often reflected broadly in our culture.