Jackson Browne is the original LA troubadour. In the early 1970s, the whiskey-voiced crooner was at the centre of the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter scene, his confessional ballads creating the bittersweet template James Taylor, The Eagles and others would later embrace as their own.
Forty years on, he continues to cut a charmingly enigmatic figure. Four sell-out nights at Vicar Street testify to his popularity, with the audience mouthing the words to even the most obscure lyric and peppering the laconic 69-year-old with song requests.
He was playful as well as earnest, heartbreakers such as ‘That Girl Could Sing’ — inspired by his unrequited pining for backing vocalist Valerie Carter — spliced with warmly amusing anecdotes that painted him as a romantic ragamuffin out of his depth.
With a formidable backing band deploying steel-pedal and jazzy drum shuffles, Browne dipped in and out of his greatest hits in addition to taking his cues from the room. ‘The Long Way Around’ and ‘Your Bright Baby Blues’ were free and easy rock outs while the more angular ‘Shaky Town’ — one of many requests he knocked out on the spot – suggested a mellower Neil Young.
In addition to selling over 18 million albums, Browne had a parallel career as behind the scenes songwriter. He wrote much of Velvet Underground singer Nico’s Chelsea Girl LP, and supplied material to Linda Ronstadt, The Byrds and Joan Baez. One of his most celebrated creative relationships was with The Eagles with whom he composed ‘Take It Easy’, that wry anthem to kicking back with which he concluded tonight’s set.
A capacity crowd hung on this and every other moment. Browne, for his part, laughed freely throughout and, decades into his career, appeared genuinely appreciate of the love. He has never quite basked in the acclaim enjoyed by peers such as Young and Taylor — a travesty that this often stunning turn served to underline.
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