The show began with Jackson walking out onto the stage alone to thank the crowd for coming and to introduce Leslie Mendelson, the opening act and a recent songwriting partner. Mendelson played half a dozen songs, singing and accompanying herself on acoustic guitar or piano, including "Medication" from her new album If You Can't Say Anything Nice..., a cut she dedicated to big pharma. Also played were "The Hardest Part," "Have a Little Heart," "All Come Together" and "Jericho" on which she was joined by Jason Crosby on piano.
Instead of there being a break between Mendelson's set and Browne's the stage crew rearranged a few things and Browne and his full band were on stage in just a few minutes. Browne began his set with a take on the title cut from his 1993 album I'm Alive before moving on to big hit "You Love the Thunder" and then "The Long Way Around" from his Standing in the Breach album, the first of several songs that would feature impressive vocals from background vocalist Alethea Mills. Sandwiched between "Fountain of Sorrow" and "In the Shape of a Heart" were two cuts from the new Downhill from Everywhere album, the title cut and "My Cleveland Heart," a song about getting an artificial heart. In introducing the cut Browne remarked about the video he made for the song in which it appears that he is having some sort of futuristic turbo-powered heart inserted in his chest. He also joked that he figures that this footage would roll over his death announcement when he passes away as there are some folks who would mistake the visualizer for reality.
A vibrant cover of Little Steven's "I Am a Patriot," which Browne said he learned in the 1980s, ended the first set; the second half of the show began with two other songs with heavy social commentary, "The Dreamer" and "Until Justice is Real," both from Downhill from Everywhere. Browne was his usual genial self throughout the show, even dealing with those catcalling for songs (yes, someone jokingly called for "Free Bird") and telling them that because he wore the ear pieces to hear the band that he couldn't really make out what songs they were catcalling for. Takes on "Lives in the Balance" and "Late for the Sky" preceded another new song, "A Human Touch" on which Mendelson, one of the song's co-writers, returned to duet with Jackson. Early hit "Doctor My Eyes" got a huge fan reaction and dancing in the aisles while "A Little Too Soon to Say," "The Pretender" and "Running on Empty," complete with a snippet of the Spencer Davis Group chestnut "Gimme Some Lovin'" brought the main portion of the program to a close. Rather than leave the stage the band stayed and soaked up the love before playing an encore of the Eagles hit "Take it Easy," which Browne wrote with Glenn Frey and that segued into For Everyman cut "Our Lady of the Well." A second encore featured "The Load-Out"/"Stay." Browne played acoustic and electric guitar as well as piano and his crack band, including longtime associate Bob Glaub on bass, recreated the songs perfectly. Along with Mills, background singer Chavonne Stewart also came to the forefront on several songs.
After taking a short break from touring, Browne will be back on the road performing with James Taylor beginning October 16 in New Orleans and running through the closing show in Buffalo, NY Dec. 13. A complete list of upcoming Jackson Browne shows is here.
The Phoenix Jackson Browne show at Celebrity Theatre was promoted by Danny Zelisko Presents; other DZP shows coming up at the venue include:
Oct. 8 and 9 - Jim Gaffigan
Oct. 17 - Gladys Knight
Oct. 19 - Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening
Nov. 9 - Rick Wakeman
Jan. 30 - Steve Vai
Feb. 4 - The Gilmour Project
For a complete list of upcoming DZP shows in Phoenix and elsewhere go here.
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