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Jackson Browne on The Lawn, Sept. 21

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There was a lengthy stretch during Jackson Browne's set Tuesday at The Lawn where I was fairly sure one of us would need a suicide hotline. I feared it would be me.

"Somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go/may lie a reason you were alive/but you'll never know," he sang on "For a Dancer." He followed that with a run of songs that included these lines: "I've been out walking/I don't do too much talking these days" ("These Days"); "I look around my life tonight and you are gone" ("I'm Alive"); "Too many angels have seen me crying/too many angels have heard you lying" ("Too Many Angels"); "Rosie," in which "the drummer swept my girl away" and he goes home to his rosie palm and her five sisters; and, finally, "I know I'm alone and close to the end" ("Late for the Sky").

Holy crap. I'm getting depressed all over again.

But here's the thing: Overall, it actually wasn't a depressing evening. In fact, it was beautiful on many levels. Perfect temperatures (they never mention the good stuff about global warming, do they?), an excellent band, a singer in good voice and seeming to be in an almost playful mood, an insistent and almost desperate version of "The Pretender," several high-flying guitar solos from Mark Goldenberg and David Lindley, and an exquisite, almost album-perfect sound mix.

You couldn't have asked for much better.

So why dwell on the gloom? I mean, Jackson Browne's lyrics always make you think he should be on a ledge somewhere, right? Well, yeah. But during that stretch, he kept his band restrained and quiet. For a long time, you had no choice but to listen hard to the lyrics. So even when he mocked the second line of "Rosie" ("She was sniffing all around like a half-grown female pup") by saying "I can't believe I wrote that line," you knew what was coming next: more unhappiness.

Happily, Browne ended the set with "Doctor My Eyes" and "Running on Empty," two songs that mask his why-do-I-get-out-of-bed-in-the-morning worldview with cheerful, driving music that rocks. Goldenberg, in particular, let loose with solos that sang and soared. Just in time.

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