BWW Reviews: Jackson Browne Offers Timeless Music at Soulful PPAC Show
Full disclosure here, right at the start. Before attending the one-night-only concert at Providence Performing Arts Center, I had only heard of Jackson Browne in passing, had heard reference made to his music but had not heard his music, or at least that's what I believed. Chalk it up to my poor musical upbringing, having never been introduced in my youth to many great aritsts, Browne among them. Luckily, his acoustic tour made a stop here in Rhode Island and I was able to find out just why he is a legendary musician who can still bring a house down.
To many, there's something special about an acoustic performance. Something wonderful about seeing a musician perform his or her music, alone on stage, with just their instrument of choice and their amazing voice. No technical wizardry. No spectacle or special effects. No auto tuning or big production values. Just an incredibly talented human being standing on a stage using that talent to entertain and delight an audience. That is exactly what Browne's show was on Wednesday night.
Many may have been suprised by the sheer number of guitars on stage, twenty-three. Would he actually use all of them? In the end, he did not, but he did switch from one to another frequently. It seemed that depending on the song, he had a guitar all set and ready to go. And every time he picked up a different guitar, he did not disappoint or fail. His prowess with the instrument is beyond impressive as he flawlessly switched from one style of music or instrumental technique to another. He truly never missed a beat.
A piano also sat on stage and Browne used it for a number of songs. He also took every moment at the piano as an opportunity to tell a story, to fill in a little history about the song. While his moments at the piano were all charming and humorous, his other interactions with the audience took some time to develop. During the first half of the show, he seemed shy or nervous, as if he wasn't sure what to say or didn't really want to say much at all. That changed during the show's second half, during which he seemed to relax and loosen up, becoming much more jovial and charming.
My friend who accompanied me commented that he looks the same as he did when she saw him in concert twenty-five years ago. His voice also seems just as strong as ever, although age may have actually added a little more soulfulness or wisdom to his singing, according to my companion. There's no denying Browne's ability to dig deep and find the emotional depths in a song. With every lyric and every line of the song, he seemed to be living the words, truly feeling the emotions behind what he sang. It made the entire performance even more mesmerizing as his voice reached out and wrapped around us, creating an unquestionable connection, from his soul to ours.
In the end, there were also songs that I did, in fact, already know, although some of them were songs he wrote but other bands or singers made famous. Among them were "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me," "Running on Empty," and "Take It Easy." While those songs truly brought the audience to their feet, there were appreciative cheers and applause for every single song he performed through the lengthy concert. Browne seemed refreshingly down to earth and easy-going, truly grateful for the audience's love and adoratoin. And the audience was just as grateful for the chance to experience his exceptional talent, exemplified by his incredible guitar playing and universal, timeless songs.