He doesn’t have a new album, hasn’t gone through any major life changes of late and (thankfully) has yet to play the farewell-tour card like some other seasoned folk-rockers.
So what was Jackson Browne doing at the State Theatre in Minneapolis on Tuesday night, anyway?
Apparently, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer simply wanted to get out and play. And play. And play.
The 69-year-old Los Angeles singer/songwriter eschewed an opening act this time around to make more room for himself. With a band of seasoned players in tow, including pedal-steel/string wiz Greg Leisz, he delivered two full sets that added up to 2½ hours of music and 23 songs from throughout his five-decade career.
After taking the stage promptly at 7:30 p.m. — apparently he didn’t know Minneapolis road construction has created L.A.-level traffic delays these days — Browne soon reached deep into his catalog for 1977’s “You Love the Thunder.” He also wasted no time reiterating his 1970s-era political activism.
For 2014’s “The Long Way Around,” he made a shout-out to “all the people who’ve demonstrated for common-sense gun legislation.” Next, he debuted a Mexi-Cali flavored new song, “The Dreamer,” which he co-wrote with a teacher of immigrant kids.
So even without a new album, Browne still managed to stay up-to-the-moment lyrically. He also proved he can still perform in-the-moment toward the end of the first set, when he called a couple audibles.
After the fan faves “These Days” and “Doctor My Eyes” — the latter a showpiece for Leisz and guitarist Shane Fontayne (ex-CS&N) — Browne asked, “Am I playing the right songs?” Which predictably resulted in a barrage of shouted requests.
When someone yelled out his late pal Warren Zevon’s name, he threw in a cover of “Carmelita.” That was followed by another tune not on the set list, “Farther On,” played on piano where his voice always shined brightest.
The second set really showed off how much Browne’s vocal prowess has held up compared to a lot of his peers (hence the lack of retirement plans). Fans audibly swooned as he sensually delivered “Your Bright Baby Blues” and “Somebody’s Baby,” which he blended with the deeper cuts “Call It a Loan” and “Something Fine.” Then came the planned Zevon cover of the night, “Lawyers, Guns & Money,” which Browne called “really prophetic.”
After the requisite pre-encore finales “The Pretender” and “Running on Empty,” he paid tribute to another lost friend, Glenn Frey, by kicking off the encore with a song they co-wrote, “Take It Easy.”
“I learned how to sing this from listening to the radio,” Browne quipped. He still sang it a lot better than the rest of us who’ve been trying to sing it all these years in our cars.