Jackson Browne, with David Lindley. At the Lobero Theatre,
Monday, December 4.

Reviewed by D.J. Palladino

Those who guessed that this might be the musical equivalent of a
proverbial That ’70s Show had no idea how oddly right they would
be. Of course illustrious headliner and homeboy Jackson Browne was
the obvious part, as his many didactic anthems — “The Pretender,”
“Running on Empty,” and “Take It Easy,” to name a few — are the
apotheosis of detachment as virtue. They warn us to check our
emotions, get a clear head, and be mellow. And mellow was the
watchword of this show and those wide-lapelled years, too.

But even the opening act was a little reminiscent of shag rugs
and mood rings, though it seemed more a warm wave toward the
1990s-brand multiculturalism known as World Music. Kiko Veneno,
Browne’s friend from Seville, played a personal mixture of
flamenco, propulsive pop, and dance music with all the dexterity
and tireless self-indulgence of fusion jazz figures from the 1970s
like Al Dimeola. Here were sweet effervescent sounds that lasted
long enough to showcase everybody’s virtuosity. The performance was
clearly beautiful but a little sleep-inducing for we who don’t
rumba so long.

But then something totally surreal happened — so 1970s! — which
generously underlined the era theme. Between songs Veneno invited
what sounded like “Jonathan Richman” onstage. And suddenly there,
in a paisley shirt, was the man whose roadrunners and toy dinosaurs
inadvertently invented punk rock. Richman humbly rumbaed, singing
nervous backup. Sadly, he never came back to praise the moonlight
or the modern world. The arch-minimalist of rock marginalized

Browne himself offered revelations playing with David Lindley
(who had a bad cold). “Crow on the Cradle” mixed folk idioms freely
and with an almost morbid poignancy. “Late for the Skies,” “Too
Many Angels,” and “My Beautiful Plan” stood out in the dozen-song
set and prepared the crowd for the finale, in which
everybody — except Richman — sang Leonard Cohen’s “A Thousand
Kisses Deep” before Jackson wallowed off into his own uber-’70s
anthem, “The Next Voice You Hear Will Be Your Own.”

What’s great about Leonard Cohen is that he doesn’t flinch, he’s
beautiful and severe. Alternately, Browne’s approach to folky
poetry is easy strumming past empty and pleasing the crowd, which
he did. Just getting Lindley and Browne to do their lavish thing
would have sufficed, though at times I wished they’d remembered
that old adage “less is more.” All in all it was a star-studded
triumph for Sings Like Hell.


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