Monday, November 5, 2012
Concert review: Jackson Browne lets fans inside his songbook at Grand Prairie show
The show’s best moments were the electric ones, thanks to the extraordinary guitar work of Val McCallum.
GRAND PRAIRIE Like every big performer who downsizes for an unplugged tour, Jackson Browne faced two new issues Sunday night at Verizon Theatre: How much talking do you do between songs? And how do you deal with all those iron-lunged fans screaming requests?
Browne opted to give the screamers carte blanche, which made for a rambunctious but sometimes annoying night and prompted one exasperated fan to finally blurt out “Whatever!” The 64-year-old singer did honor a few of the countless requests, including the 2002 obscurity “For Taking the Trouble.” But he said right off the bat, “We play whatever we feel like,” which meant no dice for the woman up front who cried out for “Tender is the Night” about 200 times.
No matter who picks his tunes, it’s hard to go wrong with Browne, who made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not for his singing, but for his vivid songwriting. He ran the gamut Sunday from heartache, philosophy, and materialism (“The Pretender”) to environmental concerns (“Before the Deluge”) to “Take it Easy,” the free-spirited Eagles anthem he co-wrote with Glenn Frey. “Easy” came alive onstage in a wicked bluegrass-fueled version -- the only missing was a guest drumming appearance from hometown Eagle Don Henley.
The concert could also have benefitted from more storytelling. He did tell fans about the inspiration behind his Mariachi-inspired 1976 song “Linda Paloma,” but that was as revealing as he got. He might take a cue or two from Sting, who found the perfect balance of storytelling and playing last November on this very same stage.
Browne is billing his current trek as an “acoustic tour.” And sure enough, he had 15 acoustic guitars lined up onstage to satisfy his every whim, while opening act Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek brought out her fiddle for a handful of songs. But the show’s best moments were the electric ones, thanks to the extraordinary guitar work of Val McCallum.
Fusing blues and jazz like a latter-day Duane Allman, McCallum made his axe sound like a Hammond B-3 organ, a pedal steel guitar, or whatever else the song called for. As the night wore on and Browne’s voice grew more and more hoarse, it was McCallum’s furious guitar work that kept the show afloat.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas freelance writer.
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