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October 4, 2011 - Phyllis Sigal
Imagine walking on stage to a standing ovation.
Jackson Browne didn't even have to sing a note last week at Heinz Hall before the audience showered him with appreciation. Phone and camera flashes abounded.
I guess that's how it is with our generation. We've been listening to Jackson sing our soundtracks for a few decades, and then, there he is — on stage, looking like he did on that first album cover.
"It's great to be here," he told us. "Thank you for coming."
Well, it was my pleasure, to say the least.
It was just acoustic Jackson, a piano and 17 guitars. Yes, 17. All lined up behind him. The piano, however, was electric. Too bad, about that. A baby grand would've been better.
For a storyteller, he didn't talk too much.
He pointed out that he usually does his shows without a set list, but "someone has generously provided me with one," and he folded and unfolded the huge piece of paper a couple of times throughout the show — a bit as a joke.
He also noted he got to spend the day in Pittsburgh the day before the concert; he called the town "beautiful."
He told us the story about writing a song for a girl he met at a huge festival in California. "I only knew her for one day. ... Later, she wrote me a letter." He said he lost the letter, so he wrote her a song, "Giving That Heaven Away." He also talked about Pittsburgher Vinnie Colaiuta, who he called, "probably one of the greatest drummers around."
That was about it for commentary; I could've listened to much more.
Mostly he sang, switching from piano to guitar back to piano to another guitar and to another guitar (remember, he did have 17 of them!) — "Late From the Sky," "Shape of a Heart," "For a Dancer," "The Birds of St. Marks," "Bright Baby Blues," "The Pretender," "Sky Blue and Black," "Somebody's Baby," "These Days," "Rock Me On the Water," "Running on Empty" "Fountain of Sorrow," "The Pretender" ...
But no "Doctor My Eyes." That was a bit of a disappointment.
Between every song, audience members shouted out a litany of their favorites. Of course, he couldn't sing them all.
And as much as I loved being there, the show itself was a bit lackluster — "mellow to a fault," one reviewer called it. But I didn't care. I loved being in the same room with Jackson and his music and all the songs he did sing.
If I could sing, I would've sung to him ... "And it's good to see your smiling face tonight."
But I will be singing his songs over and over in my head for days, I'm sure.
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