Jackson Browne and James Taylor could both pack a State Theatre or two on their own, but to be able to pack the Xcel Energy Center, on a Monday Night, was no problem for them both. With a packed catalog of hits and fans that knew every word to them all, Both acts were welcomed warmly to St. Paul.
Jackson Browne was on First, and started his set with a couple more recent songs of his, Somebody’s Baby and The Barricades of Heaven. Browne also performed a couple songs from his most recent album Downhill From Everywhere (of the same album name) and Until Justice is Real. A highlight of Browne’s set was definitely Doctor My Eyes where his new guitarist, Mason Stoops, wowed the crowd with a phish-like solo towards the end of the song. It blew the audience away, even myself, and received a standing ovation. Doctor My Eyes has no reason to have that good of a solo, but it made for a great version of the classic song. Likewise, Mason also did great work performing a near note for note copy of the album solo during Late For The Sky.
Unlike James Taylor, Jackson Browne didn’t spend much time talking about his songs or giving history lessons (more on that later) however the time he did spend with that was meaningful. Jackson took a moment before The Dreamer to talk about the bravery of his grandmother, like many immigrants today, who took the brave journey from their country to America. “And I’m glad she did” He said “Because it’s a lot easier to sing in English than it is norwegian.” He also spent time thanking the audience for coming, especially some of his extended family in St Paul, where Browne was raised for a while before moving to California. To end the set, Browne Invited James Taylor to the stage to duet The Pretender and Running on Empty. A great end to a wonderful set by Browne, even if it didn’t contain his signature sign off The Load Out/Stay.
After a brief intermission, James Taylor entered the stage. but beforehand, a video montage of fans and well know musicians performing his songs played on a backdrop beforehand, the quality of which felt like some sort of Grammy “In memoriam” video. The backdrop lifted, and James and his All Star Band kicked off their performance with Country Road. The background of which was a map of the midwest that moved and shifted throughout the song. The set design for James Taylor seemed to match his songs well. At times, we were outside on a summer night, with stars moving across the sky. At other times, James sat on a stool with his acoustic guitar as if he was in a coffeehouse playing to seven people. Above it all, a large tree towered over the stage to give us a nice, outdoorsy feel. The set design was as entertaining to watch as it was to listen to James Taylor play.
However, part of the humor from the night was also added by Taylor’s incessant ramblings before songs. Before one song, Line ‘Em Up, Taylor droned on about his thoughts on Nixon’s resignation for quite a while before adding “The song actually isn’t as long as the intro is.” I think he was right. At another point in the beginning of the night, just before That’s Why I’m Here Taylor spent some time addressing the perils of addiction and the loss of his friend John Beluishi (Who died in 1982) And added that his song was dedicated to anyone out there in recovery, like himself. After the applause from the crowd, he quietly added “There’s plenty of other songs for the rest of you who like to get fucked up.” to a roar of laughter. We were also treated to a cover of Easy as Rollin Off a Log from a looney tunes cartoon Taylor, and i’m sure plenty of other older concertgoers watched on many a Saturday morning. The song ended with an old TV on the screen, and the traditional That’s all, Folks! exit.
But it was these kind of menial moments that the audience seemed to be torn on. On one hand, Taylor could have fit in at least 2 more songs into the setlist if he only told half the history lessons he did. On the other, it was these kinds of seemingly pointless stories of his that he was able to deliver a quick quip on to top the tale, leaving much of the audience entertained. So much so, that the entire crowd of concertgoers was hushed as he told these stories. We’re talking pin-drop level silence, with the exception of someone shouting a song request here and there.
But even with these ramblings, James Taylor still delighted us with many well known songs from his catalog. Sweet Baby James, Fire And Rain, Carolina On My Mind all in that succession made for a wonderful late night lullaby (10:00 is very late for a lot of this crowd.) Taylor was also very welcoming of his current All Star Band, featuring many well known Musicians, including Horn player Lou Marini (of original SNL and Blues Brothers Fame) Larry Goldings on Piano (Pianist for Norah Jones, John Mayer, and Tracy Chapman) Guitarist Michael Laundau (The most recorded guitarist in history) and Drummer Steve Gadd (Steely Dan, Eric Clapton And Paul McCartney). Needless to day, a very talented band
Towards the end of his set, He Performed Take It Easy with Jackson Browne, which lit up the eyes of many classic rock fans, especially many who were here just a month earlier for The Eagles. Many fans were also excited for the 4 song encore, which featured You’ve Got a Friend and a duet with his son Henry on You Can Close Your Eyes.
It was very nice to see the Xcel as packed as it was for this show, and both Jackson Browne and James Taylor made it clear that they were very fortunate to have the fans they do, and to be back on the road. Here’s to many more tours from them both.