Review: JACKSON BROWNE at Palace Theater

Browne may be turning more gray, but he is far from Running On Empty

By: Jun. 04, 2023
Review: JACKSON BROWNE at Palace Theater

Jack Wilce may have left Columbus, but the local guitarist never has left the mind of singer/songwriter Jackson Browne, who opened the North American portion of his current tour June 3 at the Palace Theater (34 W. Broad Street in downtown Columbus).

Midway through the opening stanza of the always poignant “For A Dancer,” Browne stopped singing to remember Wilce, who died Jan. 30, 2021.

“I want to dedicate this song to my good friend Jack Wilce who was from here in Columbus,” Browne said. “He joined me a couple of times on stage here. He was uncommonly gifted on guitar.

“(David) Crosby would show up at our house and Jack was the only person who could teach him the harmony parts. So I am doing this one for Jack Wilce.”

Wilce, the grandson of former Ohio State football coach John W. Wilce Sr., formed a folk group with Browne and Ned Doheney in 1968 and collaborated with Browne, Crosby, and Gram Parsons among others.

“For A Dancer,” a track from the 1974 classic album Late for the Sky, uses dancing as a metaphor for life and death. The lines -- “By everyone you've ever known/Until the dance becomes your very own/No matter how close to yours/Another's steps have grown/ In the end there is one dance you'll do alone” – seem to form the baseline for Browne’s show.

Over the last 20 years, Browne’s life has been pockmarked with loss, like the gray patches in his hair and beard. He lost former housemate, Glenn Frey, former touring partner Tom Petty, and Crosby.

Amidst the joyous, smooth touchstones like “A Heart Looking for Mine,” “For Every Man,” and “Running on Empty,” traces of melancholy could be found in the 74-year-old troubadour’s set list.  

Browne opened the show with a powerful reading of Warren Zevon’s “Don’t Let Us Get Sick.” Browne often collaborated with and was a champion of Zevon, who passed away in 2003. He also eulogized David Lindley, his former steel guitar player who died March 3rd, with “These Days.”

However, don’t believe that Browne’s 3-hour concert was a gloomy affair. “For A Dancer” proclaims, “Don't let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around) go on and make a joyful sound.” And for most of the show, Browne and his talented band of merry makers did exactly that.

Flanked by Greg Leisz (guitar), Mai Leisz (bass), Maurico Lewak (drums) and Chavonne Stewart (vocals) and Alethea Mills (vocals), Browne smiled and played with the audience.  During one portion of the show, Browne asked the audience what they wanted to hear and fans shouted out favorite selections from his catalog. After a lull, someone shouted Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.” Browne stopped tuning his guitar, looked in the direction of the antagonist and slowly shook his head.

That is the problem with a prolific songwriter with over three decades of material. Browne has too many great songs to choose from. He hit many high points from his career including “The Shape of the Heart,” “For Everyman,” and “These Days,” before ending with the standards, “Running On Empty” and the ultimate show closer “The Load Out/Stay.”

Glaringly absent however were fan favorites – “Got to be Somebody’s Baby,” “The Pretender,” “Boulevard,” “For a Rocker,” “Lawyers in Love,” and “Take It Easy (a song he co wrote with the Eagles),” And to the chagrin of some of the audience, there was no “Freebird” or “Stairway to Heaven.”

Yet at 74, Browne left the Palace Theater crowd with the feeling they had seem something rare and magical. And somewhere in ethereal afterlife, Jack Wilce was smiling.


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