by Michael Rampa

Surprise! Jackson Browne is 67 years old. Unsurprisingly, he looks and sounds much the same as when he was a pivotal figure in the 1970s California soft rock movement. His instantly recognizable tenor is both gentle and authoritative at once while the musicianship remains overly capable. The Pittsburgh show marked the return of the full band. Lead guitar ace Val McCallum played like his job was at stake, making masterful blistering runs o multiple brands of guitar throughout the 2 ½ hours. He opened to a raucous ovation with the haunting “The Barricades Of Heaven” from “Looking East.”. From then on, he played two sets that shifted gears frequently. Even to the most devout fan, nothing short of a sit down listen to “Standing In The Breach “would have sparked recognition of the five songs he played from it.

The album bears the songwriter’s confusion about the world we’re living in while remaining resolute and hopeful. Browne remarked that he has a set list but never sticks to it. He threw a few curveballs, like the two covers on the album The Almanac Singers, “Which Side Are You On?” and Carlos Varela’s “Walls and Doors.” Both drew their share of quizzical looks. With a Hall Of Fame catalog of material to draw from, the selection of hits on any given night will never truly satisfy the audience. In this case, the poppy “Somebody’s Baby” felt out of place when played in the latter half of the closing set as the lead into “These Days,” “The Pretender” and “Running On Empty.”

Whether you discovered him from his early 70s classic debut, as a child of the Eighties from the lead single of the “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” soundtrack, or were a late bloomer, coming around for 1993’s “resurgent,”I’m Alive.” it doesn’t really matter, his legendary songwriting has spanned the last four decades. and remains a gold standard to which modern artists still strive.

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