Jackson Browne pays tribute to friend, collaborator Glenn Frey in Clearwater: 'This is a sad, sad, sad day'
Two songs into Tuesday's concert, Jackson Browne echoed what everyone at Ruth Eckerd Hall was thinking.
"This is a sad, sad, sad day," Browne said, not mentioning his late friend and Take It Easy songwriting collaborator Glenn Frey by name, and not needing to do so. "The only thing I want to do is what I know how to do."
Frey, co-founder of the Southern California rock band Eagles died Monday at age 67, of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, pneumonia and colitis. In 1971, Frey offered to finish a song Browne had started but had difficulty finishing. That song became Take It Easy, the breakthrough hit for Eagles, and a signature of the So-Cal sound of the 1970's.
Tuesday was Browne's first concert since Frey's death.
Browne continued by misquoting a lyric from another late So-Cal rock legend, Warren Zevon's Monkey Wash Donkey Rinse, though his meaning came through:
"Left foot, right foot, turn yourself around (sic). We're all headed for a hole in the ground."
The musician then glided into a version of The Long Way Around. Frey wasn't mentioned again until Browne's lone encore.
For nearly 2 1/2 hours Browne dug deep into his songbook, mixing in whatever yelled suggestion from an audience member inspired him. A row of 20 guitars were lined up behind him, a baby grand on the side. Before each song Browne browsed the instrument selection like a Sam Ash customer down the street, searching for the one suiting his musical whim.
Some selections were cherished by heart; The Pretender, For Everyman, Love Needs a Heart, Doctor My Eyes. Others by emotion more than memory; A Child in These Hills, These Days. As the conclusion approached, Browne's thoughts returned to his late friend.
"It's great to have someplace to go today," Browne said, before launching into Running on Empty, which he might have felt under the circumstances but never appeared to be doing.
After that hit, Browne said good night. An encore was obvious. After a few seconds off stage the musician returned, commenting before his final selection:
"I've been doing this song every night for a while here. I didn't use to sing it because it was such a famous song, I figured, you know, if people heard me start singing this song they'd have, they'd come away thinking: 'Uh, yeah, and then he sang a Eagles cover.'
"I wrote this song with Glenn Frey," Browne continued, pausing for the crowd's eulogy applause. "It is a song that I started, and I didn't know how to finish it. But I do know if I had finished it by myself, it wouldn't be the song that is it; it wouldn't be the song that we all love, you know?"
With that, Browne launched into Take It Easy, with fans on their feet, many singing along. At the song's conclusion, Browne added one more thank you to Frey, and waved goodbye.