I Went To See Jackson Browne Friday Night: The Rock Show As Bad High School Reunion by Ricki C.

(Warning to readers: Ricki C. is a rather cranky 62 year-old who at times does not seem to
understand the concept of, or is simply incapable of, relaxing and just having a good time.)

I went to see Jackson Browne last Friday.  It was my lovely wife Debbie’s birthday present from me.  In saying that I do not mean to imply I was dragged kicking & screaming to the show.  I like Jackson Browne.  I certainly like him more than, say, The Eagles, whom I consider Money-Grubbing Hackmeisters of the Highest Order, and who should be shipped out on the Japanese Current at our earliest opportunity.

Unlike The Eagles, Jackson Browne still seems to have some grasp on the concept of integrity in music: he records consistently good – if not great, or certainly not surpassing his 1970’s heyday – new records, and tours diligently to support those releases.  He does not – and here I would cite & impugn Kiss, The Who and, though I hate to say it, The Rolling Stones – just deign to go on tour when he needs cocaine cash or a balloon payment is due on his English Manse.  (Or, in Kiss’ case, when the cheerleaders on their Arena Football League team need hairspray & new outfits.)  (And oh yeah, Fleetwood Mac – who will be appearing Sunday evening at Value City Arena and whom I wouldn’t go out in my backyard to see – also belong in this category.)

With regards to integrity, Jackson is most like Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, in that he consistently insists on putting new material into his shows, even when faced with the sad/humbling fact that large segments of his audience have not bought a new release from him since sometime in the 1990's.  (And man, what would I give to be able to see Bruce Springsteen in a venue like the Palace Theater with a stripped-down six-piece E Street Band, where I could sit down and just soak in the music without standing in “pit queues” for upwards of six hours.  Let’s face facts, folks: I’m old, and I gots the bad knees.)    

My problem with these shows is the audience: they obviously WANT to be there, they dropped upwards of $143 for two tickets – plus dinner, parking and, for many, probably babysitters – but then, once they’re at the show it seems all they want to do is shout requests for songs from literally three and four DECADES ago.  (And when did everybody from my rock & roll generation GET SO OLD?  Jesus, there’s more greying, balding heads & pot-bellies than a southern Republican caucus, and these guys are dressed like shit.  This is why I stopped going to my high-school reunions after the 10-year.)

And I know, I know, I know: THEY’RE the audience, they paid their money, they wanna hear the hits.  But Jesus Christ, do they think Jackson Browne is not gonna at least NOD toward his 1970’s material?  If they ever had any respect for Jackson Browne and his music, and his creativity, and his integrity, why can’t they just for an hour or two SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LET THE MAN PLAY HIS SET THE WAY HE WANTS TO?  Do people think that after 40-plus years in rock & roll that Jackson Browne doesn’t know how to pace a set?  (Best audience exchange of the night: a slurring-drunk woman somewhere to our right kept loudly declaiming, “PLAY ‘YOU MUST BE SOMEBODY’S BABY.’” (sic)  After the third or fourth time, a woman behind us yelled, “Jackson, just play the song so she can pass out and shut up.”  Classic.)

Saving grace of the night: Jackson ended the set with – BIG SURPRISE! – “Running On Empty,” but thankfully came nowhere near playing “The Load Out” & “Stay” medley that wore out its welcome as a set-ender somewhere back around the dawn of the 21st century.  And the almost du rigeur encore of the Browne co-penned “Take It Easy” evolved into a heartfelt rendition of “Our Lady Of The Well” – one of Jackson’s seldom-played gems, just as it did on the For Everyman release.  And the last encore was a great cover of Steve Van Zandt’s “I Am A Patriot.”  Jackson Browne closed political, closed on his own terms and did not close pandering to the aging, whiny, petulant segment of his audience.  Thank you, Mr. Browne, from the bottom of my rock & roll heart, for not playing “Stay.” – Ricki C. / April 18th, 2014.

(Sometime later this week, Colin and/or Ricki will be dealing with how 
Cheap Trick handles the “Greying of Rock & Roll” syndrome.)