Jackson Browne bridges old and new at Bass Concert Hall

Jackson Browne at Bass Concert Hall on Wednesday October 21, 2015. Photo by Peter Blackstock

Although she was just a surprise one-song guest, sitting on “Call It a Loan” with Jackson Browne and longtime bandmate Larry Campbell, Austin singer Shawn Colvin summed up the nature well. tonight: “What’s better than being in your town with your friends singing a Jackson Browne song with Jackson Browne?

For more than two hours, a nearly full house at Bass Concert Hall agreed: to paraphrase the chorus of one of Browne’s new songs, if they could be anywhere right now, they’d want to be here. Backed by a band that included two aces-in-the-hole multi-instrumentalists — not only Campbell, who opened the show with his wife Teresa Williams, but also Greg Leisz — Browne showed why he’s the quintessential singer-songwriter. folk rock. Golden age.

More than half the set was from albums at least 35 years old, but Browne also challenged audiences with newer material, including five songs from last year’s “Standing in the Breach.” You could tell which of his fans were the most excited: Partial standing ovations followed 1970s standouts ‘For Everyman’, ‘For a Dancer’ and ‘Fountain of Sorrow’, while a belated triptych of the new record by “Which Side”, “If I Could Be Anywhere” and “Standing in the Breach” received relatively lukewarm receptions.

But one of his new songs was clearly a highlight. ‘The Long Way Around’ surprises Browne by deftly balancing the personal and the political: early on he takes stock of his own life – “I’ve made my breaks and a few mistakes, but not the ones people think I’ve made. do” – but as the verse progresses he expands his view: “It’s hard to say who did more harm, Citizens United or the Gulf oil spill.” Musically, the song drifts on distant echoes of his oft-covered teenage composition “These Days” (which he also performed early in the series), but the message finds Browne still pushing relentlessly into the present and the future.

Bassist Bob Glaub and drummer Mauricio Lewak locked the beat behind Campbell, who played fiddle and mandolin as well as acoustic and electric guitars, and Leisz, who bounced from lap and pedal steel to acoustic guitar and electricity in weissenborn. A secret weapon was keyboardist Jeffrey Young, who played the occasional accordion and was magnificent on backing vocals with vocalist Alethea Mills.

Browne mainly played guitar but switched to piano for a handful of old favorites, including a memorable performance of “The Pretender” near the end of the show. “Running on Empty” followed, bringing the audience to their feet to wrap up the main set. They stayed there for the predictable encore “Take It Easy,” but a nice surprise was the straight transition to “Our Lady of the Well,” tied together just as the two songs are on Brown’s 1973 album “For Everyman “. Towards the end, all the instrumentalists got one more round of the spotlight on a farewell tune that fittingly underscored the exquisite melodic song – Browne’s trademark.

He’s also a class player: he appeared a few minutes before the 8 p.m. start time, much to the surprise of spectators who had seated early, just so he could personally introduce Campbell’s first set and Williams. They played for 40 minutes and delighted the crowd with originals and a sweet version of the Louvin Brothers’ “You’re Running Wild,” which Campbell said he first performed decades ago in a band with Colvin and famed guitarist Buddy Miller.

Campbell sprinkled the set with equally illuminating memories related to Texas (playing in Doug Sahm’s band) and New York (working extensively with Levon Helm at Woodstock). Browne’s band backed the duo for most of their set, and Williams later sang a bit with Browne, including a beautiful lead on “My Opening Farewell” from his 1972 debut album.

List of Jackson Browne sets:

1. Sky Barricades

2. Just say yes

3. The Long Way

4. Quit Winslow

5. These days

6. My Opening Farewell (Teresa Williams, lead vocals)

7. Mom Couldn’t Be Convinced (cover by Warren Zevon)

8. For Everyone

9. I Am Alive

10. For a dancer

11. Fountain of Sorrow

12. Call It A Loan (Shawn Colvin, lead vocal)

13. Which Side

14. If I Could Be Anywhere

15. Standing in the Breach

16. Looking East

17. The Suitor

18. Running on empty

Bis:

19. Calm down

20. Our Lady of the Well

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