An Evening With Jackson Browne at The Ledge Amphitheater
Review and photos by: Patrick Dunn
A concert billed as “An Evening With …” will typically consist of a career spanning selection of music presented in a conversational way to include some insight into how certain songs came to be, along with random stories that can inspire fans to feel a more personal connection to their favorite hit makers. Widely accomplished singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, activist Jackson Browne’s current 4-month tour absolutely delivers on this enduring concept as was appreciated by St. Cloud and Twin Cities area fans alike Tuesday night (6/14) at The Ledge Amphitheater in Waite Park, MN. It’s a real treat for this community to be able to take in a show of this caliber in our backyard thanks to the vision behind this exceptional new venue that has really ramped up its concert schedule for their second season in operation. I happened to overhear more than a few positive reactions to the facility and its surroundings as the mostly middle-aged audience settled into their seats for what would be a very full night focused on the recognizably smooth and pleasing sound that we associate with one of music’s most popular decades, the 1970s. One element that for me elevates Jackson Browne’s show into the upper ranks of “An Evening With” installments is the significant contribution offered up by the members of his 7-piece band that was expertly dialed in on guitar, bass, drums, keys and backing vocals. Props again to the venue for engineering a great mix at an appropriate volume, which spilled out beautifully into the open air as a sweltering day turned into a truly perfect evening for outdoor music.
The number one variable that fans would purposefully or even unintentionally look to as a measure of this shows overall quality has everything to do with how well Browne’s critical lead vocal component got delivered. I would call this out as major bright spot for this production as his tone was consistently in the pocket with little to no falloff across the substantial 2 sets worth of material. Also important was how clear and understandable the lyrics came across, which I came to learn was directly responsible for a great deal of the audience reaction as across a sea of content seated listeners, pockets of people would stand and cheer after nearly every song that held special meaning for them. One example that immediately comes to mind was the performance of “I’m a Patriot”, a Steven Van Zandt (Little Steven) penned tune with a bit of a Reggae feel that nicely facilitates Browne’s tendency to express his beliefs. The song closed out the first set of the show and drew a strong supportive audience reaction.
Another overarching component that helped establish this show’s feel was Browne’s ability to be in the moment and not in a hurry, essentially giving the songs freedom to develop. His songwriting formula certainly encourages this style of performance, easing in with relaxed verses while also grabbing your attention with a catchy hook that perfectly tees up a solo section, that of which can play out in the moment to whatever extent. An even better example of this could be appreciated on songs that also included an extended jam at the end, one of this night’s best being “Doctor’s Eyes”, which drew notable applause.
I was able to gain an extra level of appreciation for a couple of compositions that Browne shared some insight into his very current and relatable connection to. “Sky Blue and Black” he described as one of his favorites to perform and is a song he still finds himself singing while alone at his house. “Still Looking for Something” Browne described as kind of a life state for himself and “These Days” while being the oldest song he performed in the set, he exclaimed “still feels current.” He also did make room for some new material in the form of “Minutes to Downtown”.
A more subtle but certainly notable element came in the form of harmonies, which elevated songs such as “Rock Me on the Water”. Singers Aletha Mills and Chavonne Stewart appropriately were featured on “The Dreamer”, which contained a pretty section with lyrics sung in Spanish and had Browne providing accompaniment on a Mexican vihuela.
Browne made a point to recognize those at The Ledge as an incredible audience and expressed thanks for our enthusiasm prior to launching into the most highly anticipated song of the night “Running on Empty”, which got literally everyone out of their seats to dance and sing along for a memorable finish. Browne did return to the stage twice for an encore section ignited by The Eagle’s hit “Take it Easy”, which he co-wrote with Glenn Frey and also included an impactful version of “The Load-Out”.
Make sure to check out the schedule of upcoming shows at The Ledge Amphitheater here and find a good reason to come check out this worthy venue.
The Barricades of Heaven
The Long Way Around
Downhill From Everywhere
Fountain of Sorrow
Rock Me on the Water
Minutes to Downtown
Still Looking for Something
In the Shape of a Heart
You Love the Thunder
Until Justice Is Real
Sky Blue and Black
Doctor My Eyes
Late for the Sky
Running on Empty
Take It Easy (The Eagles cover)
Our Lady of the Well