The solo/acoustic performance can be a risky endeavor for some songwriters. But when you have a catalog as vast and rich as Jackson Browne’s the rewards far outweigh the risks.
Thursday night, before a crowd of more than 1,600 at the Uptown Theatre, Browne delivered nearly two dozen songs, each rendered austerely via piano or one of the two-dozen-plus guitars lined up across the stage behind him.
Browne will turn 66 in October, but his voice has matured gracefully. He stopped “Stay” and restarted it in a lower key, but otherwise sang everything with ease, much like the way he recorded it.
The setlist drew heavily from his early, classic albums, and several times he redeemed requests from an audience that was vocal all night — a little too vocal at times. (A chant of “shut-up” erupted briefly among people annoyed with all the shouts from the crowd.)
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“Stay” was one of those requests, and it came early, though, as Browne admitted, it’s usually one he saved for the end of a show. On that one, the audience sang-along with gusto to the Rosemary Butler/David Lindley verse.
Other favorites came early: “Rosie,” “For a Dancer,” “The Pretender.” Before “Giving That Heaven Away,” he related a story he’s told here before, about a dalliance with a woman from Kansas City.
For “Here Come Those Tears Again,” he strapped on an acoustic guitar and played it in the style he wrote it: as a country song. He ended the first set at the piano, singing one of his best and best-known songs, “Fountain of Sorrow.” Twenty minutes later, he returned and opened the second set with “Something Fine,” a track from his debut “Jackson Browne” album.
He tossed in a new song, “Leaving Winslow,” and followed that with “Take It Easy,” which also name-checks Winslow, Ariz. Throughout, Browne showed off his ample skills at the piano and on guitar, though he hit a rough spot during his slide work on the resonator guitar during “Your Bright Baby Blues,” making himself chuckle.
The encore included his cover of “I Am A Patriot,” in honor of the Fourth of July, plus the title track from “Late for the Sky” and the hymn “Before the Deluge,” that album’s lovely closing track — Browne’s “Imagine,” you could call it. Unadorned and rendered in a voice accompanied only by guitar or piano, each song bared its simple charms and the enduring spirit of the man singing them.
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I’ll Do Anything; Stay; For a Dancer; Rosie; The Barricades of Heaven; Giving That Heaven Away; The Pretender; Here Come Those Tears Again; Fountain of Sorrow; Something Fine; In the Shape of a Heart; Leaving Winslow; Take It Easy; Just Say Yeah; Sky Blue and Black; Doctor My Eyes; The Birds of St. Marks; Running on Empty; I Am A Patriot; Your Bright Baby Blues; Late for the Sky; Shaky Town; Before the Deluge.