Jackson Browne never really needed a band behind him for his best songs, like “Late for the Sky,” “The Pretender,” “Running on Empty,” and so on. His voice and guitar carry the tunes well enough.
During his solo show Monday night at a mostly-filled Palace theater, the songs sounded just right — scaled down and bare-boned. His tunes have aged as well as he has.
During the beautiful “For a Dancer,” it seemed he could have even omitted the one accompanying instrument, leaving just his voice and the song.
He moved between a piano and his 15 acoustic guitars.
“I have all these guitars because they’re all in different tunings,” he said, “and they were too good to leave at home.”
It was nice to hear him play — he picks as thoughtfully and carefully as he sings, each note clear and pronounced like his syllables.
His songs are incredibly personal. The Palace can feel large for a solo Jackson Browne concert, but it was admirably quiet during the songs, and the more intimate and profound his lyrics — “It’s just that I’ve been losing for so long” or “Waiting here for everyman” — the more they cheered.
Between songs, the crowd shouted for their favorites, forcing a few chuckles from Browne.
“Some of you want to hear ‘Rosie,’ some of you want ‘For a Dancer.’ ” He went with “Rosie,” and then moved to the piano for “For a Dancer.” He can make low points and high points without moving a muscle. This makes his songs so warm, and he just got inside them so naturally that it was a pleasure listening to him.
One man toward the back kept yelling “Sky Blue and Black.” He got his wish in the second set and everyone benefited.
“I always thought the order of the songs was important,” he said. “It’s not.”
“These Days” is a great song, one of his true folksy-hippie tunes that resonated with this crowd. He opened the second set with “For Everyman.” The arrangements were untouched for pretty much every song, but none felt old.
“Running on Empty” was a total treat; the more mellow he played, the more excited the audience grew. “The Pretender” was the most fun, and poignant, song of the night.
He spoke a bit about saving the oceans, asking people to get involved because the “way we live, the way we do business, is killing the ocean.” The light response from the audience made the moment a bit awkward, but they eventually embraced his message. He followed with “Rock Me on the Water,” and all was good again.
Browne said he felt like he was in Albany recently, and that he wondered if he had the same hotel room as last time — “same view outside the window.” He learned from the crowd he was here with his band in September 2010. He gave us one of his few laughs of the night.
He talked about how his songs have gathered their own memories, given the amount of years he’s been singing them. “You can write a song about one person, and over the years” it develops an association about someone else or something else.
Browne is far more captivating alone on stage than with his group. His songs and delivery are so concentrated that the fewer things to come between him and his songs — like an electric band — the better.
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