Recap: Jackson Browne Tells Stories, Sings Songs as Marvelous ‘An Evening With …’ Tour Visits Costa Mesa

George A. PaulCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

For the past 50+ years, Jackson Browne has written songs about personal reflection, love, loss and political awareness with a depth that stands apart from others who came to prominence  during the early-to-mid 1970s singer/songwriter boom.

The enduring quality of his music has led to studio and concert collaborations with younger artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Dawes and Nickel Creek’s Sara and Sean Watkins. Currently touring in support of 2021’s solid Grammy-nominated album Downhill from Everywhere, Browne arrived in Costa Mesa, Calif. on Sept. 3 for a sold-out gig at the Pacific Amphitheatre. The thoroughly satisfying, career spanning set ran nearly three hours.

Keeping with the “An Evening With” theme and being in relatively close proximity to Fullerton, where he went to high school, Browne, 73, reminisced about teenage exploits, formative days as a performer and more throughout the evening. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s vocal huskiness added a heightened gravitas to the catalog material.

Browne’s tight seven-piece band included regular recording or touring associates Greg Leisz (lap steel, pedal steel, guitar), Val McCallum (guitar), Mauricio Lewak (drums) and Bob Glaub  (bass). Everything kicked off with an easygoing rendition of “Somebody’s Baby,” Browne’s 1982 Top 10 pop hit from the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack. Before starting “The Barricades of Heaven,” a song about growing up off 1996’s Looking East, Browne said “So many memories come back to me, and not the typical ones.” He recalled playing a supermarket grand opening and admiring a girl singer in one of the bands. Browne mentioned that Leisz was also from Sunny Hills High.

“The Long Way Around,” another quietly elegant tune, adeptly mixes childhood references with socially conscious lyrics. Browne prefaced it with a couple of brief anecdotes. One detailed a voter registration gig at UC Santa Barbara where he felt odd playing on a foot-high stage as students snapped selfies nearby. The other found Browne pointing out that he learned to drive not far from Costa Mesa.

Longtime backing vocalists Althea Mills and Chavonne Stewart gave a fresh soulful sheen to the environmentally tinged “Downhill from Everywhere.” Browne began first set standout “Fountain of Sorrow” on piano and then let Jason Crosby take over as he moved to acoustic guitar. The seamless group vocal blend was ebullient. Browne played a small acoustic guitar for the Spanish-tinged “Linda Paloma” as Crosby added enthralling violin lines.

A riveting one-two punch came via “That Girl Could Sing,” Leisz and McCallum trading licks and Browne providing an impassioned delivery. That was followed by the heartfelt romantic realizations of “Sky Blue and Black,” from 1993’s I’m Alive, his last Gold-certified album and a career best. The artist’s frequently performed reggae cover of Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul’s “I Am a Patriot” was updated with additional “I ain’t no …” response phrases such as “xenophobe,” “homophobe” and “family separator.” It got a standing ovation.

Following a 10-minute intermission, Browne and the band performed a thought provoking “The Dreamer” (co-written by David Hidalgos of Los Lobos) from the latest album. It was inspired by a true story of how deportation affected one woman’s family and partially sung in Spanish.

Next came a stretch of mostly Seventies hit tunes where Browne and the band – especially Leisz and McCallum – impressed at every turn: “For a Dancer,” “These Days” (Browne said it was written in the O.C. city Tustin and reminisced about an old club called The Paradox), the high- flying harmonies of “Doctor My Eyes,” an emotionally wrenching “Late for the Sky” and uplifting “The Pretender.”

Second set closer “Running on Empty” elicited a loud fan singalong as McCallum and Leisz engaged in another electrifying guitar duel. Come encore time, Browne had fun singing “Take it Easy” (which he co-wrote with The Eagles’ Glenn Frey). The traditional finale medley of “The Load Out” with Maurice Williams’ “Stay” was extended to give all the musicians another worthy spotlight and cap a spectacular evening.

Jackson Browne set list, Sept. 3, Costa Mesa, Calif.:

Set 1
Somebody’s Baby
The Barricades of Heaven
The Long Way Around
Downhill From Everywhere
Fountain of Sorrow
Rock Me on the Water
Linda Paloma
That Girl Could Sing
Sky Blue and Black
I Am a Patriot (Little Steven cover)

Set 2
A Little Soon to Say
The Dreamer
Until Justice Is Real
For a Dancer
These Days
Redneck Friend
Doctor My Eyes
In the Shape of a Heart
Late for the Sky
The Pretender
Running on Empty

Take It Easy
Our Lady of the Well
The Load-Out
Stay (Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs cover)

Remaining Jackson Browne 2022 U.S. Tour Dates:

September 7 – Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl

September 9 – Berkeley, CA @ The Greek Theatre

September 10 – Stateline, NV @ Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys

September 13 – Eugene, OR @ Cuthbert Amphitheatre

September 14 – Troutdale, OR @ McMenamins Edgefield

September 16 – Woodinville, WA @ Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery

September 17 – Woodinville, WA @ Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery

September 20 – Walla Walla, WA @ Wine Country Amphitheater

September 21 – Boise, ID @ Outlaw Field at the Idaho Botanical Garden

September 23 – Sandy, UT @ Sandy City Amphitheater

September 25 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre


  • Lenni Gurmin says:

    Jackson Browne wrote ALL the music to Take it Easy and ALL the lyrics except for the verse about Winslow which was written by Glenn Frey. Yes, the song was first made famous by The Eagles but to say it is a cover of an Eagles song is absolutely ludicrous!!!!!

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