Jackson Browne at Ravinia Review - Standing in the Breach

Jackson Browne gave a great concert Saturday night, September 5, 2015 in  The Pavillion at The Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, Illinois. It was a beautiful late summer evening just before Labor Day and the indoor-outdoor acoustically perfect site was sold-out, with a full crowd also outside on the lawn, with their hampers of delicacies, crystal and wineglasses; some people even brought coffee tables.

 

Jackson Browne

This was a relatively sedate bunch of concert-goers, mostly older than 40, attentive and polite to a fault, or so it obviously seemed to Jackson Browne. The songwriter/musician/vocalist chided the crowd. “It’s quiet in here, very quiet”, he noted about halfway through the second set. No response. “Oh, I see”, he teased, “the folks out there on the lawn can do whatever they want”. Silence still reigned. “Well, you can do whatever you want in here, too,you know”, he remarked, to no appreciable change in audience behavior. Finally, before the encore, filled with old and well- beloved favorites, he instructed the hyper-vigilant ushers directly, “Will you people in the yellow vests step aside!?" They obeyed, and he gestured expansively to the audience, who cheered and finally emerged from their seats to storm the area in front of the stage, clapping, dancing and singing along, (in a seemly way, of course, and with their I-Phone cameras held in front of them).

 

The performance was part of Jackson Browne’s 2015 tour supporting his new 10 song studio album, "Standing in the Breach" which has been described as “deeply personal and political”.  He appeared, of course, with his long-time band, all of whom were shown on the overhead screens to either side of the stage, excellent and distinctive musicians who all seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. They included Mauricio Lewak on drums, Jeff Young on keyboards, Bob Glaub on bass and Greg Leisz on lap steel, pedal steel and steel guitair, along with Alethea Mills on vocals.

The audience

Also appearing with Browne were two superior musician/vocalists, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, who share a deep country-rich and mellow sound. These two have worked with many fine performers, notably Levon Helm, and also were promoting a new CD of their own: they opened for Browne, and sang for the first entire set before the break. Together, the 3 singers and supporting vocals comprised a warm and dense melodic line, a strong vocal blend, especially on “These Days’, and in the background on “Leaving Winslow”.

 

The second set before the encore featured Browne at the piano and on his many guitars, leading the music, mostly new songs from the album, plus a few others, including one by Warren Zevon, “Mama couldn’t be persuaded”.Browne described Zevon as “the son of a Jewish immigrant gambler criminal”.Two songs in particular were mesmerizing and strongly reminiscent of the old standards, “If I could be Anywhere”, and “Standing in the Breach”.

On their feet

Throughout the concert, Jackson Browne talked to the audience. He spoke of his hope that this earth would last “another 30 or 40 years”, and his dedication to cleaning up the oceans. He mentioned he’d recently given a benefit performance in Haiti, and his amazement that in such a ravaged desolate place reduced to rubble, beautiful children are still being born full of belief in the world. Many of his songs echo the same types of sentiment, although he sang us an old love song, “Fountain of Sorrow”, and laughed explaining the woman he’d written it for didn’t deserve it; he laughed again when he flubbed the opening lines and had to begin again.

The Pavillion

Finally, before his 3 song encore (the concert, at 18 songs, was almost twice the length of the new album), clearly working hard, strutting the stage, and changing guitars with ease, he told the crowd, “We’re going to cram every bit of music we can into this show.” “The problem,”he said, “is trying to figure out what to leave out…it’s sort of like being married”. Still lean, still long-haired, his thrilling and resonant voice as young and strong as ever, the hatched-cheeked profile with its confident, lopsided grin beguiled the crowd. The encore was a triumph, ”The Pretender”, “Running on Empty”, and “Taking it Easy”, (Eagles Cover), stirred the crowd to behave in a semblance of their lost youth. People  refused to believe it when the gentle aging rocker left the stage for good; voices called out, “He’ll come back, he’ll come back and sing “Dr., my eyes”; but he was really gone ….until next time.

The crowd cheers

Photos: Courtesy of Ravinia Festival

 

 

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