The atmosphere at Jackson Browne’s Arlington appearance last Friday was festive, as friends of Browne clapped backs and exchanged hugs in the crowded lobby before the show. Inside, the audience responded to the full band onstage with hoots and hollers of approval when they opened, and even more full-bodied cheers when they broke into Browne’s familiar hit “Fountain of Sorrow.” Browne, who possesses one of music’s most recognizable voices, stood front-and-center in a cool pair of shades. (Besides being the ones he wears on the cover of his new album, Time the Conqueror, they also turned out to have prescription lenses.)
From there, he and his band took on a two-set program that paired a few songs from his back catalogue with lots of material from his new record. Despite citing that “nobody came here just to listen to the new songs,” Browne nevertheless made a good live case for the strength of his latest release. He played the title track and “Off of Wonderland,” which he said referred not just to a part of Laurel Canyon, but to a “Laurel Canyon of the mind.” When a fan called out “Happy Birthday, Jackson!” the age-sensitive musician, who still looks very youthful (at least from row MM) replied, “As of this moment, I am still in my 50s,” referring to his upcoming 60th birthday. Some in the audience undoubtedly remembered Browne’s appearance at the Arlington on October 9, 1998, when he celebrated his 50th birthday by joining in with the scheduled act, Lyle Lovett.
After a brilliant medley that began and ended with the classic “Doctor My Eyes,” the musician called for a 15-minute intermission and the party moved onto the Arlington’s covered patio.
The second set leaned far into the political side of Browne’s material, even as he spotlighted the band-Kevin McCormick (bass), Mark Goldenberg (guitar), Mauricio “Fritz” Lewak (drums), and Jeff Young (keyboards and backing vocals)-and his two brilliant new singers, Chavonne Morris and Alethea Mills. Back at piano for his old stuff at the end of the night, Browne led an ecstatic crowd to clap along with powerful versions of “The Pretender” and “Running on Empty.”