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Concert Reviews:
Jackson Browne digs deep at intimate Detroit show

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2012

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DETROIT -- Jackson Browne's concert on Saturday night, Oct. 20, at the Music Hall Center was announced as a solo acoustic performance. However, the veteran troubadour told the crowd, he was "having so much fun" playing shows in California with his two accompanists and opening act Sara Watkins and her band that he just decided to bring everyone along.

As it turned out, more was indeed the better.

Still intimate, Browne's 18-song, hour-and-45-minute performance offered a spirited romp through his catalog, carefully integrating the other musicians while retaining the singer-songwriter nature of the concert. The still-youthful looking and pristine-voiced Browne included the key hits -- "The Pretender," "For Everyman," "Running On Empty" and "Take It Easy" -- but most of the night was spent digging into less celebrated fare and gems from the deeper part of his catalog.

It was also tread lightly on the outspoken activist's political ouvre. Browne -- who also joined Nickel Creek member Watkins for two songs during her set -- opened with "Black and White" from 1986's "Lives in the Balance" and introduced a brand new song, "Standing in the Breach," inspired by reaction to the ?? Haitian earthquake. But he never referenced the upcoming elections or spoke about any of his assorted concerns.

Instead he focused on the confessional, introspective and melodically harmonic side of his catalog, including "Giving That Heaven Away," "Call It a Loan," "The Naked Ride Home," "I'm Alive" and "Never Stop" -- an audible Browne added when a fan shouted out a request. Browne and Watkins backed guitarist Val McCallum "Tokyo Girl," a song from his new album, and the Watkins trio (brother Sean and bassist-keyboardist Tyler Chester) formed a sextet with Browne for the last portion of the show, including "Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate," a particularly dynamic version of "The Late Show," "I'll Do Anything," the aforementioned "Running On Empty" and "Take It Easy," and a closing rendition of "My Stunning Mystery Companion," which gave all six of the musicians a short solo spot (which Chester on upright bass).

It might not have been what was initially planned, but Browne's show only cemented his reputation as a potent, insightful composer and performer -- regardless of how those songs are performed.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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