Jackson Browne, June 27 at Meijer Gardens amphitheater.
With no opening act, and hitting the stage with little fanfare at just after 7 p.m., Jackson Browne and his tight, talented supporting band, played a professional and pleasing 21-song, 2-hour and 20-minute set starting with “Rock Me on the Water” and ending with his 1970s and 1980s classic-rock standards “The Pretender” and “Running on Empty” before an anti-climactic encore of two songs. The high point for most of the age-appropriate audience was him playing the decades old pop/rock songs they paid good money to hear. The highlight for me were two songs in the middle of the set I had never heard before: “Walls and Doors,” a translated cover of a song by a Cuban singer he met several years ago and “For a Dancer,” a song written for a gay friend who passed away too young – and a song Browne dedicated from the stage to victims and survivors of the Orlando mass shooting. “For Orlando,” he said. “For all of us. For our Country.”
May I have more, please?
Few performers on the American music scene, short of maybe Bruce Springsteen, is more aware and active in social issues as Jackson Browne – and Browne, in fact, was singing songs of social commentary if not outright rebellion when The Boss was still dancing in the dark.
So it was pleasing to see Browne still offering up a little something to think about, rather than just remanence about, during his concert Monday night.
Oh, the now 67-year-old delivered most of the hits people remember, and sang along to, from a career that started in the early 1970s, including the pop/rock classics that landed him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Being also of an age, I still have a thing for “Doctor My Eyes” and “Fountain of Sorrow” but still can pass on his love songs such as “Somebody’s Baby” – although it was sweet, at the gardens on Monday, that he dedicated the song to a young girl in the audience who, with her mother, was calling for the song early in the set.
But, really, Browne has always been and will always be more of a social/political singer/songwriter who made it big in the seventies and eighties on soft rock and pop/rock radio. He may actually be the last singer/songwriter from that era still standing and producing new material. His excellent “Walls and Doors,” written by Cuban singer/songwriter Carlos Varela, as well as the haunting “The Birds of St. Marks,” from his 14th studio recording, 2014’s Standing in the Breach, prove Browne and his music has aged well and he is not a pretender when it comes to his musical integrity.
From the concert on Monday, special note also needs to be given to some fine work by Browne’s guitar players, Val McCallum and Greg Leisz, whose work on the lap steel and pedal steel was sterling.
— K.D. Norris
Fifth Third Bank Summer Concerts at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park tickets still available (some limited numbers) are Femi Kuti & The Positive Force Band on July 20, Jay Leno on July 28, War and Los Lonely Boys on Aug. 10, Seal on Aug. 26, and the rescheduled Tears for Fears on Sept. 26.
Schedule and more info:
Free concerts on Tuesday nights (starting in July): http://www.meijergardens.org/calendar/tuesday-evening-music-club/