That being said, he did a remarkable job of taking familiar pieces and transposing them for solo performance. The versions of "Running On Empty", "Taking It Easy", and "The Pretender" he delivered on this night were not only adapted for solo performer, they seemed far more introspective than the studio versions. Slowed down, and without a rock and roll accompaniment propelling them, the first two songs were far more coloured by the patina of memory then ever before, and much more emotionally powerful for it. To be honest I'd never been the biggest fan of either song, as I thought that Browne had been a bit young at the time to write something as retrospective as "Running", and there was always something just a little distasteful about "Taking It Easy"; its homage to 1970s California Me Decade hedonism always rubbed me the wrong way. However, as they were performed on this night, more than 30 years after each was written, there was a certain wistfulness for days gone by - a loss of innocence mourned and life was simpler then (not better ) - that lent them a compelling air neither have had before and was far easier to accept and believe as a result.
Quite a number of songs he played over the course of the evening could have easily be called memory songs. Not nostalgia for a better time, but a looking back on the hopes and dreams of a generation. A song I hadn't heard before, and the title escapes me, recounted an encounter he had with a young woman during a concert 40 years ago. He introduced it with a rather sheepish laugh about the days of "free love" (which resulted in the disappointing but hardly unexpected reaction from the idiots in the crowd). What could have been an awkward or sentimental song in the hands of another was, under Browne's delicate touch, a sweetly gentle reminder of what was actually meant by the "free" in free love. It was something individuals could control, not another commodity to be bought and sold on the open market. It was free not in the sense of everybody should take what they want from whomever they wanted, but in it is the one thing that is ours to give as we choose, which makes it all the more precious.
Jackson Browne has shown he has the ability to transcend the usual simplicity associated with the popular music format through the depth of his integrity and his heart-centred music. Compassion, humour, intelligence, and an acute awareness of the world around him have, over the years, allowed him to write songs that speak truths about subjects as diverse as love, war, and the human condition in general without ever falling into the trap of sentimentality, offering simplistic solutions to complex issues or knee-jerk reactions. Seeing him in performance one can't help but be struck by his generosity of spirit and the genuineness of his sincerity.