Jackson Browne at the Royal Albert Hall, 12th April

4 stars (out of 5)

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jackson-browneAt a gig like this it’s easy to be sidetracked into watching the audience rather than the band. Firstly because you want to know what the audience is for a singer-songwriter whose first hit (“Doctor My Eyes” in America) was in 1972. Secondly, you want to know if any celebrities have turned up (I saw one of the cast of “The Green Wing”). The bulk of the audience was made up of the expected forty to fifty-five age group but with a surprisingly high proportion of teens and twenties who weren’t with their parents (I even saw some on the Central Line after the gig).

Jackson Browne’s latest tour, the first in the UK for many years with a band, is in support of his latest album “Time the Conqueror” which was released last year. It’s always a difficult proposition for an artist with nearly forty years of back catalogue to introduce new material in their live set, but the obvious way of doing this is to play for two and a half hours without a support act. The mid-set interval is almost a necessity for the majority of the audience (when the Eagles played Twickenham, the queue for the toilets was longer than the queue for the bar) but I’d love to know what the musicians do in those 20 minutes.

The first half of the gig concentrates on “Time the Conqueror”, featuring the title track, “Drums of War” and “Off of Wonderland” alongside a few old favourites like “Doctor My Eyes” and “Fountain of Sorrow” and closes with a standing ovation from most of the audience. After the interval the set opens with the beautiful acoustic piece “Something Fine” from his first album and features a few more songs from the new album including “Going Down to Cuba” (unfairly dismissed as lightweight by some reviewers – listen to all of the lyrics) before reaching the climax of “The Pretender” followed by “Running On Empty” and closing with “My Stunning Mystery Companion”.

It’s a difficult balancing act which works really well for most of the gig. The audience get to hear most of the old favourites (including the surprise, for me, of “Bright Baby Blues”) while the new songs are fairly well represented, so everyone’s reasonably happy, but there are a few minor question marks.

Maybe it’s the acoustics in the Albert Hall, but the sound was really bottom-heavy, which doesn’t really to justice to subtle arrangements; it would have been a great dance club sound, but it didn’t really work for a singer-songwriter gig.

For most of the gig, the 2 backing vocalists sounded fabulous, but sometimes the vocal arrangements didn’t work (“Doctor My Eyes” for example) while the harmonies from the keyboard player, Jeff Young, were spot-on every time.

After forty years in the music business, Jackson Browne is still writing songs which are relevant and topical and he’s still capable of performing for well over two hours – what more do you want? One final question; how did the younger element at the gig tonight get to hear about Jackson Browne?