Aah, where do I begin? I had the distinct pleasure of taking in what was to be my seventh Jackson Browne concert at the Tower Theater in Philly Thursday night. What could possibly be left to say about this truly amazing, genuinely one of a kind man? While he seems ageless from afar he isn't, but he has kept the boyish demeanor that endears you to him.
I expected to see him appear sporting a beard this time – a gray beard at that like he had at Sundance Music Festival, and on his new CD cover for Time The Conqueror. But he surprised me by walking quietly onstage once again, no introduction and no pretension; no rock and roll attitude or 'sit up listen now, I'm a big star' personae. Just his ever clean shaven face, giving the audience his patented shy 'hi'. He just did what he's done for as long as I've followed him – enjoyed his audience as much as they enjoyed him. He will laugh and talk with everyone and joke about himself as well.
He started the show with "Boulevard" and seemingly played without any set list, playing what pops into his head, although I'm sure there has to be a loosely structured one. He joked, “I’m struggling with the self-knowledge that I’m lazy enough to just stand up here and do whatever you tell me to do.” While he doesn’t quite do that, he will kid the person with the request that asking for a song was the best way to get him not to do a particular song. This song would then of course, show up a bit further in the program. But this is his style and it allows him to occasionally take requests from the audience, which gives him an opportunity to do the archival songs he may not otherwise get to do. No one comes away disappointed I can assure you of that.
One song from the new release CD was "The Drums Of War" and the audience, who up until then had been swaying, dancing or singing along, just listened with a hush. If this is any indication of the contents of Time The Conqueror, Jackson has another hit album on his hands.
He had his longtime band with him last night, Kevin McCormick (bass), Mark Goldenberg (guitars), Mauricio “Fritz” Lewak (drums), and Jeff Young (keyboards and backing vocals).
However, there were two new additions, backup singers, who are also on the new CD. Chavonne Morris and Alethea Mills are two vocalists Jackson met in early 2001 while working with Washington Preparatory High School, located in South Central Los Angeles. These girls are absolutely worth the price of the ticket on their own! They are one of the best things Jackson has done.
Lastly, he finished things off with "I Am A Patriot" and reminded everyone to get out and vote – and even with good reasons to talk about political things, he chose to make no mention of candidates or policies being presented.
Having been to so many of his concerts now, there are so many stories big and small I could regale you with about him and how he chooses to conduct himself onstage. I think the thing I like best however, has never before been more evident than it was last night – Jackson is always true to form and has been since he appeared on the scene in the mid 1970's with the song that got my attention – "Doctor My Eyes," and for me there was no turning back.
He really has proven he's conquered his own time and not the other way around. His vocal chords don't yet know they'll be celebrating their 60th year on this planet October 9th.
As I said, a truly amazing man.