May 13, 2011
ACL Moody Theater
Austin, TX USA
Review by Laura Hill
Photos by Christopher Durst
Ah, Friday the 13th is a wonderful occasion for some, spooky for others. And for those that just don't care, this particular day was capped off with the acoustic wonder of Jackson Browne's music. When he announced to the assembled crowd there would be no set list, and he'd play whatever he felt like, you knew something special was in the air.
You couldn't have asked for a better location to catch this California native play his music. With and electric piano and nearly 20 guitars lined up neatly behind him, Brown performed one unplugged gem after another. Sometimes he went deep, like "In the Shape of a Heart" and "Your Bright Baby Blues". Other times he just played the stripped down hits like "Rock Me on the Water", "The Pretender", "Running on Empty", "Stay" and "Somebody's Baby." He also put a refreshing spin on the Eagles' classic he co-wrote, "Take it Easy". Brown took audience suggestions to heart and performed them on the spot. And to the delight of the near capacity crowd, he even trotted out folk sensation Shawn Colvin to join him on the Warren Zevon penned tune, "Mohammed's Radio."
As one of this country's premiere singer / songwriters, Jackson Browne the Moody Theater was indeed the perfect spot for the artist to unpack his gear. This place doubles as the host to Austin City Live, the longest running music series in television history. The sound inside is outstanding, sight lines remarkable and the lighting beyond reproach. Its warmth and ambience added that special touch to the introspective performance Browne put on.
It was pretty evident from Browne's remarks to the crowd that he's still trying to make sense of the world he really wants to live in, as opposed to the one he's stuck in right now. And that's a shame. His musical output the past twenty years has slowed down to a trickle (four albums). The bulk of the songs in this show came from the prolific songwriting period of his life - 1972 thru 1977 - that saw him release five albums and sell over 13 million albums. In the end, it really didn't matter. The raw vulnerability in Browne's voice won the crowd over as he sashayed his way through an impressive unplugged set list.
It takes a special kind musician to entertain an audience when your only defense is a guitar and a microphone. This intimate, 25-song show was like some marvelous time warp for many in the audience who consider Browne's music to be the soundtrack of their lives. Maybe Jackson has been struggling to find his voice the past decade and beyond. But this evening, he hit all the right notes.