Written by Eddie Ferranti
Nov 07, 2012 at 08:00 PM
ImageOne of the coolest things about what we do for Houston Music Review is venture into unknown territories as far as musicians that we choose to cover. The other night Rose and I took it to a totally different area when Jackson Browne visited Houston at the killer venue Bayou Music Center (formally Verizon).

Getting the chance to review an artist whom we’ve known since the ’70’s, but never having the chance to see him live was exciting, especially in the format that he chose for his current tour. JB alternated often between piano and multiple guitars he had in tow and did it with minimal, but effective talking between songs. Fans yelled out requests all night and Browne was so at ease with the clamoring and yelling, mostly granting their wishes the best he could. I loved when the obligatory ‘Free Bird’ was yelped and he mashed the yeller saying he did not give it enough ‘FREE BIRD” to get his attention. Nice.

Browne brought along two members of Nickel Creek, Sara and her brother Sean Watkins, who might as well stayed on stage all night with Sara’s fluent fiddle work and silky smooth voice complementing Sean’s guitar jamming. Their opening set warmed the crowd up big time and it was cool how Jackson’s appearance with them also made it like an ‘Open Mic’ night starring super players.

Speaking of which, Val McCallum was outstanding on lead guitar taking Browne’s tunes to another level indeed. Bringing memories of Duane Allman-ish, if you will, bluesy jazz infused licks, McCallum made his guitars adjust to whatever the songs called for keeping the gig afloat and then some. His hauntingly bad ass work on ‘Tokyo Girl’ was a standout moment for sure. Browne looks damn good at age 64 with his standard straight, dark, shoulder length hair and a boyish face of the past 20 years.

ImageHis vocals were astonishingly sharp and the acoustics of BMC brought them to the packed house wonderfully. The hits we have embraced over the years were there like ‘Doctor My Eyes’, mystifying version of ‘Pretender’ and, of course, ‘Running on Empty’.

The encore was filthy good with all on stage rockin’ out to an elongated ‘Take It Easy’, the free-spirited Eagles anthem he co-wrote with Glenn Frey. The tune came more than alive in a wicked bluesgrass-fueled version with the only thing missing was a guest drumming appearance from Don Henley himself! Other than those songs, Rose and I were witnessing a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer bringing his underappreciated lyricists talents to us and we were beamed in all night.

Browne really seemed to embrace the other songs in his vast musical catalog which the baby boomers in attendance recognized in the first few bars no less than the FM radio air wave monster hits. Tunes like ‘I’m Alive’, ‘The Naked Ride Home’, ‘These Days’ and ‘I’ll Do Anything’ stood out to name a few.

Browne repeatedly told the crowd how he loved playing for them and doing a tour like this one with how he described as “very few rules” carries a risk, but he pulled it off albeit the calls for songs that got old after awhile to this reviewer. It was a long time coming and we’re damn glad we finally caught such a gifted songwriter…God Bless and see ya out there enjoyin’ LIVE music!