Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tender is the Night, Debased: Jackson Browne Showcases His Artistry as (Some) Fans Demonstrate Their Idiocy -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Jackson Browne
Chicago Theatre
October 14, 2014

"Have you ever been to a concert before?" 

So sneered the asshat behind me, shortly after I had politely asked if he and others nearby could quiet their talking during the songs Jackson Browne was singing. To which he retorted, "No, I can't."

I didn't bother to answer his question then, but will now.

Yes, fuquad, I've been to a concert before. In fact, I've been to 620 of them, primarily because I enjoy hearing what the artists onstage are singing and playing.

And just because I keep track of these things, Tuesday night's show at the Chicago Theatre was the 1,500th live performance of almost any kind--except athletic--I've attended in my life, at least as entered into my Filemaker database.

So I certainly understand that people attend shows--and specifically rock concerts--for various reasons, from varying perspectives.

Many--and I am not being derisive about this, if the enjoyment of others isn't terribly impinged upon--go primarily to "have a good time," or to hang out with friends, or to be seen, or to consume considerable amounts of alcohol (and/or weed).

I certainly hope to have a good time at any performance I attend, often in the company of a close friend or relative, occasionally several.

And I don't wish to deny others their pleasure--however achieved, unless rudely--any more than I want them to corrupt mine.

But there is not a single rock concert I've ever gone to where my primary objective has not been to hear, see the performance of and appreciate the music. (Even on the Lawn at Ravinia, notorious for chatterboxing, I feel the performers deserve to be heard by anyone who has bought a ticket with that intent.)

As I've often said, not facetiously, rock is my religion. And probably my therapist as well.

And even in the nosebleeds where I typically sit, most rock concerts are far from cheap.

Perhaps because I have gone to so many concerts by myself, where conversing with a companion wasn't an option, I may be a bit oversensitive to people talking around me. Though I try to keep this in mind before getting overly irritated.

And though Jackson Browne, even in playing with a band, focused heavily on new and/or more delicate songs from his vast repertoire, I am not saying the theater needed to be funeral silent. Or even as quiet as at a theatrical performance.

But the dick behind me, and a few others either with or near him--I never did turn fully around--just wouldn't shut up DURING the songs.

These included, in order from the onset, tender takes on deep cuts from Browne's catalog ("The Barricades of Heaven" and "Looking Into You"; the latter from his 1972 self-titled debut) followed by two tracks off his brand-new album Standing in the Breach, and then an introspective early classic, "These Days."

I enjoyed all of these songs, especially as I had studied up for the show by listening to the new album and several of the tracks I had noted on preceding setlists. (See Jackson Browne's Chicago Theatre setlist here.)

The main jerk behind me was avowedly there hoping for a glut of greatest hits--I don't blame him much for that; I would've welcomed a few more myself--but before the show I had even shown him the recent setlist on my phone to suggest that, especially early on, easy ear candy would be sparse.

Yet even he--apparently, as he voiced his every thought--appreciated the warm beauty of Browne's still-supple voice, keen lyricism and adroitness on guitar and piano.

But as he and his pals incessantly talked through every song, the distraction certainly detracted from, if not quite ruined, the first set of the show for me. 

So after a wondrous take on "These Days," during which the guy enunciated at least four times how much he liked the song, I was compelled to turn and request the chatter be quelled. His obnoxious retort, and the then-increased rudeness, prompted an older man sitting next to me to even more vociferously tell them to shut up.

Things threatened to get ugly, and adding to my discomfort was that my friend Paolo, who had bought the tickets as a birthday present, was caught up at meeting and didn't arrive until 8 songs into the 10-song opening set. So even to move to some empty seats a section over was precluded by not wanting Paolo to arrive and not find me.

When he did get there, he got a taste of the bullshit behind us, and rather than pick a fight I just insisted that we move to empty seats at intermission. Musically, the break was preceded by a lovely "Fountain of Sorrow."

But in addition to the very acute rudeness that directly affected my enjoyment, I felt the show was marred by many other imbeciles who felt the need to shout song requests at Jackson--even amidst his introductions to other songs--and other obnoxious guttural utterances.

As Browne noted from the stage, when he plays completely solo he's more open to heeding fan requests, but just a few shows into this tour with a new band, he's sticking mostly to his planned playlist.

Plus, aware that he was indulging the audience with several new songs, he commented that "I've been working on these songs for six years, I need to play them."

So I was perfectly fine hearing what he wanted to play, especially as I knew that "Doctor My Eyes," "The Pretender," "Running on Empty" and "Take It Easy" would be coming late in the show.

That said, although all the cajoling was crap, and when Browne did give into it and asked "What do you want to hear? all he got was an aural blur, it was nonetheless opportune--performance-wise--for him to call an audible and play "In the Shape of a Heart."

And--while greatly appreciating the artistry on abundant display--given the austerity of a bit too much of the material, a blast through "Lawyers in Love" or "Somebody's Baby" would have interspersed rather well.

In fact, we almost got the latter, for as Jackson was about to play "For a Dancer" per his norm on this tour, screams for "Somebody's Baby" prompted him to ask which one the crowd wanted to hear.

But then, perhaps justly annoyed, he played neither, going right into "Doctor My Eyes," which like the hits that followed, was a delight.

Though I somewhat felt during "The Pretender" and "Running on Empty" that the band didn't sound quite as fluid as it will once it fully gels.

I was afraid the audience had cost us a song, and a great one at that, but we got an extra one to end the encores: "Before the Deluge" from Late for the Sky.

It sounded good, though I would have preferred the title track from that classic 1974 album, or even more so, "The Load Out/Stay" combo.

But heck, I was just happy to hear Jackson Browne sing without having morons talking over him.

A bit hard to believe, but this was the first time I was seeing him as a headliner (I'd seen him open for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in 2002).

He was good enough that I'm happy I went, and perhaps even deserving of @@@@1/2 if the disruptions didn't detract, though I think balancing his set with a few more rockers and/or favorites ("Red Neck Friend," "Boulevard," "You Love the Thunder," perhaps, though I should note he did play "Rock Me on the Water") would have seemed appropriate and advantageous.

As it was, I would have enjoyed Jackson Browne a whole lot more if not for his fans.

At least the worst of them.

So as not to seem too much a hypocrite, as this blog shows I take a good number of photos during any concert. I also take some notes on my phone for review purposes. Some fans nearby may find either or both of these emissions of light annoying and distracting; I certainly might. 

But not only do I try my best to be courteous--including dimming my phone's brightness--if someone informs me that I am impinging on their enjoyment of the show, I comply without discussion.

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