by Doug MacGunnigle, WPRO
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jackson Browne brought his brand of 70’s ‘pop rock’ to the Providence Performing Arts Center Wednesday night, delighting his fans with hits and well received new material.
Accompanying Browne were his longtime band mates Bob Glaub (bass), Mauricio Lewak (Drums), Val McCallum (guitar), Alethea Mills (Vocals), Chavonne Stewart (vocals), Jeff Young (keyboards), and the acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz (guitar, lap steel, pedal steel.)
McCallum and Leisz in particular had several solo spotlights, and the vocal harmonies of Mills and Stewart were exquisite throughout the night, and were referred to by Browne as his “honor guard.”
Most of the crowd pleasing hits were there, from 1982’s “Somebody’s Baby,” made famous from its inclusion in the classic coming of age film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” to 1977’s “The Pretender,” and of course the 1978 smash hit “Running on Empty.”
On his website, Browne is described as having “written and performed some of the most literate and moving songs in popular music and has defined a genre of songwriting charged with honesty, emotion and personal politics.” He stayed true to this reputation with a trio of politically charged tunes early in the set, starting with “Long Way Around,” from his most recent studio album Standing in the Breach, which deals with gun violence and was dedicated to the student protestors in Florida.
Also performed in this trio of ‘protest songs’ was the 2017 single “The Dreamer,” about a Mexican immigrant woman that Browne knows in Los Angeles, and “Lives in the Balance,” which came across a bit heavy handed. All of the ‘protest’ material was well received by the nearly sellout crowd.
This material was followed by the hit “Doctor My Eyes” from Browne’s 1972 eponymous debut, which had several ladies in the crowd up front dancing in the aisles, including one woman waving a pair of underwear emblazoned with Browne’s intitials across the front. At one point Browne asked her to knock it off, out of respect to the people standing behind her, and it was distracting to him.
Browne had a decent rapport with the crowd, acknowledging (but not necessarily playing) requests that were shouted out, such as covers of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers Guns and Money” and Little Steven’s “I Am a Patriot.” Unfortunately, neither ended up being played.
After the main set was capped off with “Running on Empty,” Browne returned for a performance of “Take it Easy,” the hit Eagles tune written with the late Glenn Frey.
While it was unlikely that Browne broke a sweat during his laid back, ‘lite rock’ performance, he delivered on what the near capacity crowd came for, finely crafted pop/rock tunes performed and sung masterfully by an amazing band and a charismatic front man who is still in fine voice just months shy of his 70th birthday.