Jackson Browne Opens Tour in Ohio
With a fat songbook so packed with quality deep cuts and hits he can’t possibly play all the ones fans want to hear, Jackson Browne walked on stage unannounced and by his lonesome June 3 in Columbus kicked off his U.S. tour with …
… a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Don’t Let Us Get Sick.”
It was an unexpected, risky and entirely successful move that immediately won over the nearly sold-out Palace Theatre and elicited warm applause as Browne sang Zevon’s prayer and immediately established his 74-year-old voice is much younger than its chronological age:
“Don’t let us get sick, don’t let us get old/don’t let us get stupid, all right/just make us be brave and make us play nice/and let us be together tonight,” Browne declared.
After that introduction, Browne brought out his powerhouse “half-full band”–Greg Leisz (Watkins Family Hour, Bob Weir and Wolf Bros) on lap steel, acoustic and electric guitars; his wife, Mai Leisz (David Crosby), on bass; drummer Mauricio Lewak; and singers Chavonne Stewart and Alethea Mills (who doubled on percussion)–and got right down to business with the show proper, which was generous across 60- and 90-minute sets.
Saying “I wanna play them all,” but knowing he couldn’t possibly do so, Browne, who accompanied his bandmates on acoustic and electric guitars and piano, did cover 49 years of music making, crafting a setlist that spanned from 1972’s “Doctor My Eyes” to 2021’s “Downhill from Everywhere,” a warning about the oceans’ fragile health and one of many highlights of the evening.
The reggae-tinged “I Am a Patriot” was another. Though released in 1985, the song seems to have intuited where the United States was headed and Browne added some new lyrics – “I ain’t no xenophobe,” he sang – to place it even more firmly in the context of 2023.
Band members came and went to suit the songs. Stewart and Mills – who shone all evening and share an almost-familial vocal blend with Browne – left their riser and joined the songwriter down front for “Until Justice is Real.” Greg Leisz and Browne played as a steel-and-piano duo on “Walls and Doors” and the (half) full band dug into “Running on Empty” so deeply that Browne kicked his leg high in the air and turned to stare down Leisz as he offered his take on the solo made famous by David Lindley.
Being the first night of the tour with a new band and a new set, there were a few hiccups. A muffed note here. Some not-quite-honed arrangements there. And Leisz’s pedal-steel guitar sat lonely and untouched all evening long, suggesting Browne was calling audibles as the night unfolded. A pessimist might say these things were evidence of Browne softening up. An optimist might revel in the not-set-in-stone nature that led to such surprises as Browne deciding the first set wasn’t long enough and tacking “For Everyman” on to the end and causing Mai Leisz to run back on stage after assuming break time had come.
The same thing happened to Greg Leisz at show’s end, when Browne opted to play “The Load-Out”/“Stay” and the multi-instrumentalist–who wowed Browne and the concertgoers all evening long–struggled to get his lap steel situated on time. He made it with less than a bar to spare and Browne rewarded Leisz by calling on him to extend his solo, which he did to rapturous applause.