Jackson Browne at the Gardens

By Rob Frayser

At the end, we wanted to stay just a little big longer. But after one hour and 45 minutes and two encores, Jackson Browne left the Louisville Gardens stage for good. During the time he was there, Browne proved that his seemingly long absence from the music scene has not affected his ability to create and play great music.

Browne opened his Aug. 8 show with "I'm Alive," the title track on his latest album. The song, which received considerable radio play, is reminiscent of his hits from the 1970s. Browne next settled into a show that featured new material in the first half and classics in the second. Early highlights included "Everywhere I Go," featuring a distinctive reggae beat, and the love song "Shape of a Heart." Also early on, Browne threw in an obscure song from his second album, one that he co-wrote with former and now-current Eagle, Glenn Frey. "Take It Easy" was wildly received by the crowd, many of whom will probably see the Eagles perform it later this year. Browne followed up with one of the most powerful of his new songs, the haunting "Too Many Angels."

The second half of the show played like a Jackson Browne greatest hits album. First up was a rockin' version of "On the Boulevard" followed by "Doctor My Eyes." Both songs illustrate the way Browne can deal with serious subject matter and keep the sound upbeat. Near the end came my favorite Jackson Browne tune, "The Pretender," a song about an "everyman" struggling in the world of careers and love. He closed out the show with the title track to his best album, "Running On Empty."

After a brief break, Browne and band returned to the stage for the perfect encore song, a modernized version of "The Loadout/Stay." A second short break later they returned for a final encore that included "Party Tonight" and the reggae tune "Righteous."

Browne has seen many years since he first recorded "Doctor My Eyes," but they appear to have been kind to him, as he looks much the same as he did 15 to 20 years ago. He is also one of those rare artists who is at the top of his form after all that time.

Singer/songwriter John Hiatt opened the show with a strong 50-minute performance that showcased one of the more underrated voices in the business. He took his great voice and backup musicians through a wide range of songs, including a high-charged rendition of "Slow Turning." One of the highlights of his set was his version of "The Thing Called Love," a Hiatt song made famous by Bonnie Raitt. Hiatt closed his set and brought the audience to their feet during his lively encore performance of the title track to his latest effort, "Perfectly Good Guitar."

Early in his concert, Jackson Browne told the audience that it was an honor to play on the same stage as John Hiatt.

I believe it was our privilege to see those two very talented musicians perform on the same night.