As Californian singer-songwriter Jackson Browne returns to Liverpool with his full band, Getintothis’ David Hall takes it easy.
Jackson Browne is one of those performers on the edge of most contemporary radars, casting a shadow without striding out into the foray often. He’s just come from a headlining date at London’s Royal Albert Hall however, and quietly sold out the spacious Philharmonic Hall months ago. Over fourteen studio albums, he’s sold over 18 million albums in the US alone; you don’t get to do that without knowing your way around a tune or two.
Some of the best songwriters of the 70’s period like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Lindsey Buckingham, and Neil Young all took cues from Browne, and particularly the Eagles, a quintessentially Californian sound. It became clear throughout his Liverpool set that consciously or unconsciously, many modern performers also bear Browne’s influence. Fleet Foxes and The War On Drugs are just a couple of names springing to mind to sound alike.
For a performer with such impressive sales and pedigree behind him, it’s arguable that he has been overlooked in favour of peers, but Browne was met with an enthusiastic reception at the Philharmonic Hall, and dispatched a seasoned set expertly. Long time bandmates of the singer similarly played a blinder, with guitarist human tower guitarist Val McCallum making his Telecaster look like a child’s toy whilst duelling with lap steel player Greg Leisz. Jackson has describing the lineup as his ideal band, and it was easy to see why.
Seeming at ease onstage, Browne spoke at length in his own measured style on subjects ranging from Donald Duck to Donald Trump. He kept his bandmates similarly on their toes, the setlist seemingly made up on the hop, responding to requests from the audience and tailoring the set to the Liverpool audience. Accordingly, The Loadout got an airing, as did Rosie (a torch song many songwriters would be honoured to call their own, which has had the distinction of being parodied by its performer on The Simpsons as Marjorie) and a stomping Warren Zevon cover of Lawyers, Guns and Money.
Browne skipped backwards and forwards in time through his catalogue with ease and precision. Perhaps his latter-day material like the set-opening couplet of Just Say Yeah and The Long Way Around – both from his two most recent studio records – held the feeling of easing the audience into the set. But Before The Deluge followed, from Browne’s 70s heyday, it’s Beegees-esque piano chords and melody lines lilting into Americana, the crowd greeting its intro with applause and several audience members rising to applaud throughout Browne’s set.
Browne’s voice was like a well-sugared cup of coffee throughout, rich and comfortable on tracks like the wandering The Pretender and These Days, originally recorded by Nico on her 1967 album Chelsea Girl. The only real misfire came as Browne and band wandered too far from their template on a cover of a Randy Newman song A Piece of the Pie; a jazzy, discordant affair that although enjoyable enough seemed like a square peg in a round hole on this occasion.
But when his most well-known track Doctor My Eyes’ soaring vocal lines reached into the rafters, and his Eagles cover – Browne receives an often-overlooked co-writing credit on Take It Easy – brought the audience to their feet, it was clear that the Californian had Liverpool in the palm of his hand.
Photos by Getintothis’ Martin Waters