Jackson Browne’s quiet but powerful response to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris provided the most compelling moments of his concert at the Music Hall on Friday.
“Far From the Arms of Hunger,” a haunting song Browne added to his set lists following the horrific events seven days earlier, is a plea for a more peaceful world. Browne characterized the tranquil composition as “a sort of prayer.”
Although Browne repeatedly tested the patience of the occasionally restless audience of about 2,000 with renditions of unfamiliar material, fans responded to the stirring requiem with appropriate reverence.
None of the other 23 selections Browne and his six-piece band performed in their 2 1/2 hour appearance (not including a 15-minute intermission) was as moving as “Far From the Arms of Hunger,” but he supplied his admirers with plenty of reasons to be satisfied.
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Browne’s introspective compositions and handsome visage made him the quintessential Southern California singer/songwriter of the 1970s. While the world has changed since his debut album was released in 1972, Browne’s gentle music and conscientious lyrical concerns have remained constant.
Several of the seven songs he played from his 2014 album “Standing in the Breach” expressed Browne’s concerns about environmental and political issues. Songs about charitable deeds and global activism usually make for lousy entertainment.
Interpretations of shrill screeds like “Which Side?” were correspondingly tedious. By balancing laments about the “disappearing ozone layer” with humor, the amiable shuffle “Leaving Winslow” was the lone exception.
The impeccable playing of the band made even the unwieldy moralizing more palatable.
Accomplished guitar slinger Greg Leisz added astute solos on a variety of stringed instruments. Leisz’s mournful statement on “These Days” made the sad ballad particularly poignant. Browne’s voice retains its boyish charm, but Alethea Mills provided welcome vocal pyrotechnics.
“The Birds of St. Marks,” a jangly tribute to the Byrds, was the most pleasing of the nine consecutive deep album tracks that opened the second set. Sporadic shouts of disapproval were on the verge of becoming alarmingly disruptive when Browne compensated for the extensive survey of lesser-known material with four of his most popular songs. Faithful versions of “The Pretender,” “Doctor My Eyes” and “Running on Empty” were followed by “Take It Easy,” a song he co-wrote with Glenn Frey that became the Eagles’ first hit.
The song’s sentiment may be appealing, but Browne’s steadfast refusal to rest on his laurels resulted in a vital, if slightly flawed, concert.
The Barricades of Heaven, Just Say Yeah, The Long Way Around, Leaving Winslow, These Days, For Everyman, Far From the Arms of Hunger, For a Dancer, I’m Alive, Fountain of Sorrow, Your Bright Baby Blues, Yeah Yeah, Which Side?, A Child in These Hills, If I Could Be Anywhere, Standing in the Breach, The Birds of St. Marks, Looking East, In the Shape of a Heart, The Pretender, Doctor My Eyes, Running on Empty, Take It Easy