August 25, 2021
Aug. 24—DULUTH — Be forewarned: While the following is intended as a review of the Aug. 17 James Taylor/Jackson Browne concert at the Gas South Arena here, it is going to come off more as a fawning love letter to two of rock and roll’s greatest singer/songwriters.
Because, in truth, that’s what it is.
How else can you write about an event that was so transformative, an event that brought tears to these eyes, an event that brought such joy to this old heart of mine, an event that made me so glad to be alive?
Maybe it was partially a reaction to the year-plus of COVID-induced semi-isolation. Maybe it was the opportunity to finally see Browne perform live, one of my musical bucket list items (I’d seen J.T. perform before). Or maybe it was just the outpouring of hope and exhilaration of seeing these great veteran artists prove how viable they still are and how well their songs have stood the test of time.
I’m sure it was a little of all of that … and so much more.
Jackson Browne is, I believe, one of the best five or six songwriters ever. You could take “The Pretender,” “Sky Blue and Black” and “These Days,” and that would be enough to qualify him. But as Browne’s fans know, those are just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to his deep, poignant catalog.
(A confession: When the concert started, and I heard that familiar, wonderful voice sing “I’m Alive” — a song to which I absolutely relate — tears flowed uncontrollably down my cheeks. In those first couple of minutes, the concert was well worth the price of admission.)
I’ve learned to never complain when an artist with such a rich catalog does not play a favorite song. (I honestly thought Eric Clapton fans were going to revolt at the same venue a few years back when the veteran guitarist did not — gasp! — play his all-time classic “Layla” … as if that was his only defining moment. Damned yuppies.) I had in my mind any number of songs from master singer/songwriter Browne’s decades of classics, but I was just so overjoyed to hear the songs he wanted to sing on this night.
I marveled again how poignantly Browne perceives the world around him — in “The Long Way Around,” he sang of “… letting go two or three disasters ago” — insight those of us who listen can only experience through his songs. My faith in my beliefs was renewed as he sang “Until Justice Is Real.”
The first big surprise of the night — and I don’t know why it was such a surprise, perhaps it was just that I was so caught up in the moment — was when Browne said, “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. James Taylor.” I literally broke out in gooseflesh as the familiar icon ambled onstage. That Taylor sang with Browne on two of the latter artist’s all-time classic songs — “The Pretender” and “Running on Empty” — was a memory to cherish for the ages.
(It was such a cool moment when Browne said, “James, you gonna stick around with us?” seconds before the the familiar piano/guitar intro to “Running on Empty” brought the 13,000 or so at the Gas South Arena to their feet.)
Of the literally hundreds of concerts I’ve seen in my lifetime, when Browne left the stage and the houselights came up, signifying no encore, I’ve never been so disappointed to see a show end. But the thrill of the performance — musically, vocally and visually — would not allow me to focus on any downside.
As the roadies (and wouldn’t it have been great to hear Browne do “The Load Out/Stay?” … OK, no griping) set up what would be an elaborate and awe-inspiring stage set for Taylor’s performance, I listened to some music critics behind me talk about how James Taylor’s voice “sounded weak” while singing backing vocals on “The Pretender” and “Running on Empty.” I almost turned around and said, “Dudes, he was only singing backing vocals; he was not trying to usurp anything from the guy singing the songs.” But I kept quiet, thinking to myself, “Just wait and see.”
It didn’t take long for that to happen. After an emotional video montage of just regular folks singing Taylor’s songs, the man called “Sweet Baby” immediately won the crowd over with a stirring rendition of the “Sweet Baby James” classic “Country Road.” And the musical high points just kept coming.
Taylor told of how he came to write the second verse of “That’s Why I’m Here” after learning of the death of his friend, comedian John Belushi.
“I was dealing with my own issues, and that literally scared me sober,” the singer said. “I’m sure there are a lot of you here who have your own issues, so this song is for those of you dealing with recovery.” The crowd cheered wildly, and Taylor added, “We’ve got a lot of songs for you who are f—ed up, too.”
As marvelous as the music was, another awe-inspiring element of the evening was the stage, which was decorated with a tree that helped highlight the digital splendor that accompanied choice tunes. One shining example was “Mexico.” As Taylor and his All-Star Band (which was) hit the chorus, the backdrop exploded with an array of bright colors that brought a festive atmosphere to the arena.
Taylor didn’t hold back during his 18-song performance, mixing familiar tunes from throughout his career with rarities like “Easy as Rollin’ Off a Log,” which was from his COVID-era “American Standards” album and, Taylor noted, inspired by an old “Merry Melodies” cartoon, which played on a “TV set” digital display and provided a lighter moment to the evening.
Of course, most fans want the hits when they watch a prolific artist like Taylor, and he didn’t disappoint: “Copperline,” “Steamroller Blues,” “Sweet Baby James,” “Fire and Rain,” “Carolina in My Mind,” “Shower the People,” “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You).”
Then came a stirring four-song encore that was itself a marvel. It started with the moving, lovely “Shed a Little Light” that featured Taylor’s backup singers (including his son, Henry). Then Taylor called Browne to the stage, and they duetted on “Take It Easy,” a song Browne co-wrote that became The Eagles’ breakthrough hit. Browne stayed for a moving rendition of Taylor’s Carole King-penned classic “You’ve Got a Friend,” and then everyone but Taylor and his son left the stage.
Backing themselves with acoustic guitars, the Taylor’s wowed the crowd one last time and ended the night on an emotional high with their take on Taylor’s lovely “You Can Close Your Eyes.”
It’s the music fan-boy in me that leads me to declare that this show vaulted into my all-time Top 5 concerts list, a declaration that has not worn off in the few days since returning to southwest Georgia and reality. But it’s the human being in me that left me with a final, decisive thought as I walked to the car after the show: “If I die now, I die happy.”Link to Article Jackson Browne, James Taylor concert one for the ages
August 23, 2021
I Always Thought I’d See You Again:James Taylor, who is touring with Jackson Browne, performing at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 16. The duo are playing U.S. arenas and amphitheaters through December, including Chicago’s United Center, San Francisco’s Chase Center and Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum, before heading to Europe in January.James Taylor/Jackson Browne Bridgestone Arena, NashvilleAugust 16, 2021
By the time James Taylor emerged to sing “The Pretender” with Jackson Browne, offering the line “Out into the cool of the evening strolls the Pretender / He knows that all of his hopes and dreams begin and end there…,” it became apparent the singer/songwriters’ stop at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena was going to be much more than a hit fest of soft rock favorites from the ‘70s and ‘80s. More than nostalgia, these songs not only endure but expanded to include the life-worn truths of coming of age in the 21st century by two American treasures.
There was no preaching, no stridency, no toxic shock of 24-hour news cycles, yet the humanity and clarity on display firmly reminded the crowd of their decency, generosity and kindness. Browne, from SoCal, did an exceptional job merging new songs that connected the dots on plastics clogging and killing the ocean (“Downhill from Everywhere”) with shimmering takes on classics (“Fountain of Sorrow,” “Late for the Sky”) before winding up with a surging “Running On Empty” that’s lost none of its bite. Indeed, the urgency of “Empty” serves a clarion call for generations facing global, ecological, personal and health crisis at every turn.Browne, 72, always the bruised romantic, still represents a raging against the dying of the day. At a time of overwhelm, “Doctor My Eyes” feels desperately current, while “My Cleveland Heart” buoys hope in a time of overload.
With a heroic band, Browne brought both dynamics and a wide-open spirit. It was a reminder that laid back can rock with a genuine sense of thrust as well as musicianship from players including Bob Glaub and Greg Leisz.
James Taylor, now 73, from North Carolina, Boston and Martha’s Vineyard, is in many ways the more cozy. While a bit more mellow, he spent his time onstage expanding and reconfiguring many of his best loved songs. “Carolina In My Mind” turned on five-part harmonies and Taylor’s acoustic guitar, while “Mexico” percolated under Latin rhythms, a thicker layer of instruments punctuated with horn blasts that all gave way to an incredible vocal freestyle/percussion fest. Later, “Shower The People” would also have a vocal vamping session with the crowd singing and clapping along; Arno McCuller stood out with an incredible set of vocal runs that prompted cheers from the already invested audience.
Charming, a bit awkward and hilarious, Taylor is the uncle everyone loves the most. Talking about the pedal taverns and “wooo!” girls, he impaled Nashville’s drunk Bridezilla nation. When he introduced “That’s Why I’m Here” for “my friends in recovery,” he quickly added, “And don’t worry: we’ve got plenty if you’re fucked up, too.”
That buttery suede voice lands as a comfort and reassurance. Playing “You Can Close Your Eyes” with just his son Henry at the foot of the stage, the tenderness and family ties created a reminder of how small, simple truths shape the best of what life can be.
With “Take It Easy” driving the encore – and co-writer Browne onstage – the night took on the vibe of a frat party band having its own kind of fun. This was the hedonism of the time period both emerged from, and it reminded those in their 40s, 50s and 60s who they were back then, but it also offered the large number of people in their 20s and 30s a sense of why this music engaged so viscerally back when.
“You’ve Got A Friend,” with Taylor’s five singers and Browne, was the benediction the night deserved. With a smile and a twinkle in his blue eyes, the pledge of being there for each other, was perhaps the message most necessary. In a hard, callous world, the idea of being there with one another was exactly what the people needed to hear.
August 18, 2021
James Taylor and Jackson Browne announce new fall tour dates!
Make a priority reservation here and receive first access to the best seats in the house when they go on sale on August 23 at 10am local time.
The JacksonBrowne.com fan presale begins August 24th at 10am local time. For more information, head to the JacksonBrowne.com Tour Page.
**Note: When purchasing your presale tickets, please pay close attention to the updated vaccine and COVID testing protocols now required to attend a concert.Link to Article James Taylor and Jackson Browne announce new fall tour dates