Jackson Browne: Latter day sins

Jackson Browne

Paramount Theater

Oakland, CA

August 19, 2009

Jackson Browne: Latter day sins

“Sub-question: is it, in fact, unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins, is it better to burn out or fade away?” Jack Black as Barry in the movie High Fidelity.

All music fans love the movie High Fidelity about the

doomed love life of a record store owner who has a

penchant for using lists to mark the soundtrack of his life: e.g. top 5 break-up songs, Top Five Bands or Musicians Who Will Have To Be Shot Come the Musical Revolution (1. Simple Minds, 2. Michael Bolton, 3. U2, 4. Bryan Adams, 5. Genesis) Just remember, for all you Bolton fans, I didn’t make the list. And though, this sub-question above is regarding Stevie Wonder, a once great artist that has committed some grievous latter day sins ("I just called to say I love you"); it could also be asked of Jackson Browne in some respects.

JB is Old School: not as an adjective but as a noun. When it comes to singer-songerwriters from the 1970s: Jackson Browne set the mold. He is a first class song-writer, a great singer and, at least, projects the image of being one of the most centered, down-to-earth rock stars in the biz. There is little wonder why he has a devoted following and engenders great affection from his fans- including me (what's not to love about someone who sues John McCain?).

Yet, the first set of last night’s concert was pretty tame. It was the lame Jackson Browne of the 1980s: forgettable sing-songy melodies, pedestrian lyrics with hackneyed metaphors- all rather uninspired. A pale echo of what he once was. Now, should I hold these sins against JB when his following set, after a brief intermission, was fantastic and displayed the brilliant song-writing of his early days that has made him a staple of classic hits FM radio?

The first three songs of the second set were Jamaica Say You Will, Rock Me on the Water and Doctor My Eyes. He also went on to play The Pretender and Running on Empty and closed the concert with The Load-Out/Stay. These songs are simply brilliant pieces of song-craftmanship and embody what I love about Jackson Browne- the painful honesty and self-revelatory nature of these songs say things that you have always felt yourself without the ability to put them into words. And JB accomplished this in a very laidback, easily accessible California style that makes me happy to live here: it’s about the good-life and trying to enjoy life because it is a wonderful thing to experience.

So, it pains me to say critical things about JB because I have affection for what he has accomplished as well as his longevity- not to mention his willingness to say what he feels is right and wrong. But I wish he would have skipped the first set and just played the second set.