Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
The world keeps turning around and around
Go on and make a joyful sound
I first saw Jackson Browne and David Lindley at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester in the early 70s, on the ‘Late For The Sky’ tour. ‘For A Dancer’, with Lindley’s shimmering slide guitar, was a highlight of that show. Tonight I saw them together again, 40 years on, at the Liverpool Arena in a truly memorable show, where again ‘For A Dancer’ was a high point.
Browne, Lindley and the band managed to overcome the uncongenial atmosphere of the Arena with a show in two distinct sets. The first comprised an acoustic trio of Jackson Browne with David Lindley and percussionist Tino di Geraldo – one of Jackson’s Spanish musician friends who accompanied him on the Spanish tour, highlights of which are captured on his new live album, Love Is Strange. This was an intimate set – like a well-assembled compilation from an enthusiastic friend with taste, because they took the unusual step of beginning with numbers by other artists – ‘Seminole Bingo’ by Warren Zevon and Bruce Springstein’s ‘Brothers Under the Bridge’.
Hunger in the midnight, hunger at the stroke of noon
Hunger in the mansion, hunger in the rented room
Hunger on the TV, hunger on the printed page
And there’s a God-sized hunger underneath the laughing and the rage
In the absence of light
And the deepening night
Where I wait for the sun
How long have I left my mind to the powers that be?
How long will it take to find the higher power moving in me?
Power in the insect
Power in the sea
Power in the snow falling silently
Power in the blossom
Power in the stone
Power in the song being sung alone
Power in the wheatfield
Power in the rain
Power in the sunlight and the hurricane
Power in the silence
Power in the flame
Power in the sound of the lover’s name
The power of the sunrise and the power of a prayer released
On the edge of my country, I pray for the ones with the least
After Jackson had sung ‘Looking East’ – a song that seems to gain in weight and significance, David Lindley sang the Blind Willie Johnson blues classic ‘Soul of a Man’. Declining the invitation of some scouse joker to embark on their own version of ‘Twist and Shout’ (which, in the Arena’s acoustics, Jackson mistook as a request for ‘Twist and Shite’) they moved on to ‘For Taking the Trouble’ before finishing the set with ‘For Everyman’. Here were guys simply playing together and performing favourite songs that gave a real insight into the roots and branches of their music.
After the interval the second set of just under two hours featured the full band and covered four decades of Jackson Browne’s classic songs. The band were: Mark Goldberg on Lead Guitar, Kevin McCormick on Bass Guitar, with Jeff Young on organ. All have worked with Jackson Browne for many years and are outstanding musicians in their own right. Backing vocals were by Aletha Mills and Chavonne Stewart. Later, David Lindley returned to join the band, and took the lead on his own rockin’ ‘Mercury Blues’.
“I’m just about at that stage of the tour where I’ll play whatever you want”, Browne laughed at one stage,faced with a torrent of calls from audience members for favourite songs. He responded to by playing a beautiful version of ‘Rosie’, Mark Goldberg and Kevin McCormick providing superb backing vocals. It was the band that contributed to an outstanding account of ‘Your Bright Baby Blues’, and the closing run of numbers – ‘Doctor My Eyes’, ‘Mercury Blues’, ‘The Pretender’, ‘For a Dancer’ and ‘Running on Empty’ – were all enhanced by the quality of the band members’ performances.
There was a shimmering version of that exquisite song deliniating a relationship’s end, ‘Late For The Sky’. Remarkably, in the current issue of Uncut, Jackson reveals that he kind of wrote the song backwards – he had the phrase ‘late for the sky’ and wanted to write a song that ended with that line.
With Dylan endlessly touring, croaking out his lyrics in an increasingly impenetrable manner, it’s Jackson Browne that still carries the flame from the times when some of us were dreamers and some of us were fools…making plans and thinking of the future (see, for example, Jackson’s lengthy article for the Daily Mail (really?) on plastic pollution). The only disappointment of the evening for me was – no ‘Before The Deluge’ or ‘The Fuse’.
Brothers Under the Bridge
Soul of a Man
For Taking the Trouble
Off of Wonderland
Your Bright Baby Blues
Time the Conqueror
Giving that Heaven Away
Late for the Sky
My Problem is You
Too Many Angels
Doctor My Eyes
For a Dancer
Running on Empty
I am a Patriot
Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive
In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned onto the road I’m on
Running on – running on empty
Running on – running blind
Running on – running into the sun
But I’m running behind
Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don’t know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that’ll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave