Review By Terri Nas
Wednesday night was a wet and soggy occasion(classic Melbourne Summer), and it was baby boomer central as I headed over to Margaret Court Arena to see legendary American singer, Jackson Browne. If there’s one thing I love as much as going to gigs, it’s people watching. As I stood outside waiting for my friend to arrive, I watched the crowd roll in and it occurred to me that never have I been to a gig where a huge portion of the crowd had to enter via the accessibility entrance. These boomers were here for a damn good time, and absolutely nothing was going to get in their way.
Browne is currently touring Australia after having to postpone his tour earlier in the year due to illness. Supporting him on his tour is Australian singer-songwriter, Liz Stringer. This is one home-grown talent that I am admittedly ashamed I have never heard of until now. Stringer has an absolutely incredible voice that has the ability to stop you in your tracks. It's raw, husky quality is equally matched with refined smoothness and during a couple of her slower songs, if I'd closed my eyes I would've sworn I was listening to Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac. Stringer is a true storyteller and her songs really struck a chord with me. Her song The Metrologist is brilliant and the intensity of the bridge had me holding my breath, waiting for her to come up for air during the fast paced lyrics. I thoroughly enjoyed her entire set, and she now has a brand new fan in me.
Once Liz Stringer departed the stage the roadies did their seamless stage changeover, and it wasn't long until the house lights would go down in preparation for the main event. The stadium was stripped of light, and Jackson walked onto stage alone under a single spotlight to a huge round of applause. Guitar in hand and decked out in jeans and a blue plaid shirt, he opened the show alone with a moving version of Don’t Let Us Get Sick.
His band of 7 then entered the stage and took us on an upbeat ride Downhill From Everywhere, which then led to For Everyman where the stage was completely bathed in red lighting to really set the tone. Jackson’s two incredibly talented back up vocalists then joined him down the front of the stage to sing Until Justice Is Real, in which he dedicated it to those all around the world fighting racial injustice.
Fountain of Sorrow and The Long Way Around were next on the list until we got to Somebody’s Baby, in which Jackson confessed that it took him 20 years to love this particular song. He also acknowledged with humour, that “a guy with a white beard singing about a baby, is not good”. He then went on to explain that in his mind he doesn’t have a white beard and he’s definitely not 75. Those of us that have begun the ageing process certainly found this hilariously relatable.
Jackson then jumped over to the piano to play his favourite song, a cover of Warren Zevon’s The Indifference of Heaven. We then were treated to a beautiful and moving rendition of For A Dancer, which he explained was written about his first friend that passed away.
The lyrics are completely heartbreaking and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with a lump in my throat at that point.
Hecklers in the audience started piping up with requests, and The Pretender was one that many called out, which was met with a chuckled response of “we’ll get there”. Jackson opted to play Boulevard next before succumbing to peer pressure and playing The Pretender, which was met with a hugely excited response from the crowd. Jackson explained that he’s actually been in Melbourne for the past week seeing the sights and lapping up our incredible restaurants, and couldn’t help but cheekily stir us about our “great weather” in response to the consistent summer rain we’d had for the past week.
Call It Alone and Time The Conqueror were up next, despite the audience still shouting requests in between. Jackson, in a good natured way said in response “we’re gonna play what I want.” Whilst the odd harmless heckle or request can be funny, when people consistently do it throughout a show it does wear thin and I find myself getting as annoyed as what the performer must be. As we started to navigate to the final leg of the set with more hits, That Girl Could Sing was a great experience with an awesome harmonising guitar battle, and then we got to the classic Doctor My Eyes which the crowd couldn’t help moving and singing along to.
Late For The Sky took things down a notch before the set was rounded out with a finale of his iconic hit, Running On Empty. The crowd were going wild and dancing in the aisles to the legendary tune. Those that weren’t up dancing, were then up out of their seats for a standing ovation at the end of the song. Jackson and his band deserved this overwhelming reception and more. We then went through the usual motions of being wished goodnight and pretending to say goodbye, until SURPRISE! Encore time!
There was no way he could finish up his 2+ hour set without singing an ode to all the roadies out there with The Load-Out, which naturally led into the crowd favourite Stay. There was a lot of audience participation and backing vocals during the entire encore because in fact, yes, we did “wanna staaaayyy, just a little bit longer”.
It was then a final goodnight to the brilliant Mr Jackson Browne and his super tight and talented backing band. Jackson and his formidable talent is a great example that age doesn’t necessarily mean limitations, given that his voice was still just as superb as ever, and I did love seeing him float between his guitar and piano throughout the course of the night. His music has that wholesome ‘Americana’ feel with long instrumentals and meaningful lyrics that reach your heart, which also have the staying power to reach multiple generations. Despite being one of the youngest there and not knowing every single song I thoroughly enjoyed my night with such a talented legend, and judging by the conversations I overheard on the way out, that was the general consensus of everyone that was in the room that night. Until next time, Mr Browne!