Jackson Browne and James Taylor ‘Shower The People’ of Anaheim with Love – Review

James Taylor and Jackson Browne played Anaheim - Courtesy

By DAN MACINTOSH

Jackson Browne and James Taylor have always represented the softer end of the rock music spectrum and over the years were known to “Take It Easy,” one might say.

Of course, that’s the song cowritten by Browne and the late Glenn Frey, which the Eagles turned into a worldwide hit. And Browne and Taylor performed it beautifully towards the end of their concert at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

While Browne and Taylor play more acoustic than electric guitar, each was backed by talented bands, which added plenty of sonic punch to their familiar folk rock songs. Their respective sets offered many opportunities for quiet reflection, yet there was never a dull moment.

Taylor’s stage featured a backdrop of various nature scenes, including leaf-shaped lights that changed colors – like the seasons – as they rotated up and down. His songs referenced various places and environments, ranging from his home country (“Carolina in My Mind”) to regions with more of an international flavor (“Mexico”). The performance of “Mexico” offered a good example of why Taylor’s backing musicians made such a significant contribution to the show. It included plenty of spicy percussion and a trumpet-saxophone horn section, which gave it a rich, full sound.

Jackson Browne and James Taylor played Anaheim – Courtesy

As with the many great singer-songwriters Taylor came up with in the 1960s and ‘70s, most of his songs are deeply personal. He explained how the second verse to “That’s Why I’m Here” was inspired by John Belushi’s sudden and unexpected death, for example, and was a wake-up call leading to Taylor’s ultimate journey to recovery from substance abuse. His intro was also one of the night’s funniest moments, as it found Taylor dropping a few F-bombs. Who knew such harsh curse words could come from such gentle songsmith’s lips?

It was heartening to hear Taylor sing “Fire and Rain” like he really meant it, even though he’s sung it countless times over the years. This audiences of mostly baby boomers also happily sang along with Taylor’s uplifting songs, like “Shower the People” and “You’ve Got a Friend,” as though Taylor represented a kind of musical Mr. Rogers. This audience truly believes they have found a friend in James Taylor.

Jackson Browne was in good spirits when he opened the show. He began with “Somebody’s Baby,” which reminded all that Browne can pen great pop hits when he wants to. He’s as much a political activist, though, as he is a pop star. The middle part of his set included new and pointedly political works, including the pro-immigration “The Dreamer” and a cry for justice with “Until Justice Is Real.”

Browne had fun joking about this Orange County show, as he grew up in nearby Fullerton. Although he sat at the piano to perform “Fountain of Sorrow,” he mostly accompanied himself on guitar. “Doctor My Eyes” and closer “Running on Empty” were about as loud as Browne got, which is not very noisy by Rock N Roll standards. He was joined by Taylor for a duet on “The Pretender,” which created a special moment, for a special song.

Opener Browne returned the favor, when he joined Taylor for an encore on “Take It Easy,” a song he cowrote with the late Glenn Frey. Although each of these graying artists are long past those days when they’d turn the heads of pretty young girls (as the song describes) they nevertheless create music that ages well. Neither needs to employ moves like Jagger in order to remain relevant. They each proved how it’s possible to rock gently and smartly at the same time. This audience left settled down, rather than all shook up, which was not a bad thing at all.