Jackson Browne overcomes the weather and some technical bugs to deliver a magical Kings Park show, writes Julie Hosking.
Jackson Browne, A Day on the Green
Kings Park and Botanic Garden, 11 April 2023
“Welcome to our soundcheck,” Jackson Browne says wryly. It’s a night when neither the weather nor the tech gods are smiling. Or maybe they’re having a laugh at our expense.
Either way, it’s drizzling at Kings Park and the revered singer-songwriter is having a few sound issues. Well, they mostly seem to be affecting slide guitarist Greg Liesz, as his pedal steel is unplugged and replugged, a tech crawling around the stage in search of answers. Will this be Jackson Browne Unplugged?
The crowd is in a good mood thanks to a stellar performance from The Waifs (sadly, we couldn’t get there in time for the other local support, Helen Shanahan). This Albany band has been doing Western Australia proud for 30 years now, and the quality of both their storytelling and musicianship is more than worthy of the big stage.
Hard to pick a standout in a set full of tunes as familiar and beloved as our superlative sunsets, but Vicki Thorn’s Bridal Train (how I love that unashamed Aussie twang), sister Donna Simpson’s London Still and Josh Cunningham’s evocative Since I’ve Been Around all gave me goosebumps.
The Waifs aren’t an easy act to follow even if your name is Jackson Browne. The American laureate walks on stage with little fanfare, launching into Downhill from Everywhere, the title track to his 2021 album which pretty much decries all of humanity. It’s a bold move when much of the mature audience has clearly come to hear the hits but it sets the tone for a concert that delivers so much more.
Browne reminds us that he’s been in the game for more than 50 years but while the hair and beard might be grey, he’s clearly lost none of his touch. That distinctive voice sounds as rich and resonant as ever, and he shifts back and forth from guitar (of various stripes) and piano with ease.
He’s also a very generous frontman, giving all five band members moments to shine. While an acoustic Browne has its appeal, thankfully the tech gremlins are banished to allow these virtuoso players (the All-Star Band moniker is more than deserving) to do just that. Liesz’s slide, in particular, is something to behold, as is Mason Stoops’ searing electric guitar.
Browne also invites backup singers Chavonne Stewart and Alethea Mills to the front of the stage to accompany him on two more recent tracks, Until Justice is Real and The Dreamer. While both are further reminders of the songwriter’s activist heart, the lyrics of the latter really strike a chord: We don’t see half the people around us/But we see enemies who surround us/And the walls that we’ve built between us/Keep us prisoners of our fears.
It’s not until he returns to the piano for Doctor My Eyes, however, that those looking for a “best of” session come to life, getting to their feet and singing along to words that belie the upbeat melody played with gusto by a band that appears fused at the hip.
The set closes with a ripping Running on Empty, the much-loved (and played) title track from his 1977 album, the crowd clearly up for more, whistling and calling out for the band to return.
Browne obliges. First with the crowd-pleasing Take it Easy, the Eagles classic he wrote with the late Glenn Frey – “sing it so Glenn can hear” – and then Our Lady of the Well. Both recorded more than 50 years ago, they hold up as well as their creator.
It seems inevitable that he will return one more time with his ode to roadies, The Load Out. This is a song that never grows old, in sentiment or beauty, and Browne starts solo, his voice ringing true through the autumn evening, before the band gradually take up their instruments and raise the (metaphorical) rafters.
As Browne segues into the Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs’ classic Stay, we all hope he will. There are so many more songs he could sing. But he is done. The rain starts to fall a little heavier but weather gods be damned, this has been a magical night.
Pictured top: Jackson Browne delivers a memorable evening of music. Photo supplied
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