Frank Sinatra had a famous song called “My Way” that fit quite well for a recent gig Rose and I attended. Veteran singer/songwriter Jackson Browne cruised into Houston at the acoustically killer Revention Music Center and put on a very nice display of his lyrical talents backed by a very good band.
The show opened up, without prior notice, with a 45 minute set by Larry Campbell and wife, Teresa Williams, laying out some fine guitar licks and rousing Tennessee vocals from JB’s back-up band. You can Google Mr. Campbell and find out he’s been there and done that as far as being a stud musician. Browne had met him years ago playing with Levon Helm and he was a real treat on electric guitar, violin and mandolin. Williams showed ample pipes and they did some original songs of their own and a lot of traditional stuff by Blind Willie Johnson and Robert Johnson, like “Believe I’ll Dust My Broom”.
Campbell also counts himself among that group of Reverend Gary Davis followers (Roy Bookbinder, Bob Weir and Jorma Kaukonen) and performed Davis gems “Sampson and Delilah” and “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”. The rest of the band included Greg Leisz on guitar, lap steel and pedal steel, Bob Glaub on bass, Mauricio Lewak pounding out rhythyms on drums and Jeff Young on piano, Hammond, accordion and adding those distinctive back-up vocals we have come to expect from a Jackson Browne show!
JB came out looking fit for 67 (“In ’65, I was 17”…I did the math) with his Prince Valiant locks and started out the set with some tasty bits from his latest albums, many of which supported his social activism agenda. He moved back and forth from guitar to piano sprinkling the show with folk songs and kick ass rock ballads. His voice was as clear as ever and he played the best venue in H-Town to showcase it.
1996’s stellar “The Barricdes of Heaven” opened it and the show rolled nicely with highlight moments like his take on gun violence on “The Long Way Around”, “Just Say Yeah”, cool cover of Warren Zevon’s “Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded”and the killer long intro to “For a Dancer” gave way to the full sound of “Fountain of Sorrow”. Browne’s style is simple and straightforward and he was wise to back off and let Campbell steal the stage many times with his excellent musicianship.
Circling back to my opening line though came into play when the older crowd-who payed good money-seemed a bit impatient for his classic hits and became quite vocal and stupid with their requests. A few so vocal in fact that I suspected they had saved a few qualudes from the seventies for this night! At one point a fan became so disruptive that JB shouted: “Why don’t you buy me a drink?!” The cocktail was produced and Browne had a chance to deposit the beverage in a porcelain mug harking on the pollution problem that plastics bring. Touche’ dude!
Of course, being the class act he is, Browne never intended to disappoint the packed house saving the classics for the end of the show thru encore. Speading masterful on your feet goose bump shit on “If I could Be Anywhere”, “The Pretender”, roaring response to “Running on Empty”, “Take It Easy” and into the gentle finale of“Our Lady of the Well”!
In summary, Browne has earned his stripes and can do whatever he damn well pleases to on stage. The band he brings with him is always top notch and this reviewer left very satisfied indeed. He did it his way and his distinctive lyrical skills are shining thru still very well indeed…