Article 1983-08-02 New York City, NY


JACKSON BROWNE'S evolution from a confessional singer-songwriter into a polished arena rock star represents a triumph of will over some difficult obstacles.

Mr. Browne's chosen musical idiom is a plain, hymnlike style of folk-rock that doesn't readily lend itself to high amplification, and his quiet, steady folk-rock baritone is limited in both its range and its power to project. Mr. Browne is, moreover, an introverted sensibility whose lyrics describe a romantic idealist's discovery of both his own imperfection and the world's in highly personal terms.

Yet at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday evening, the singer, working with the same rock quintet that appears on his latest album, ''Lawyers in Love'' delivered a smooth 2 1/2-hour show that culminated with a surprise guest-appearance by Bruce Springsteen. Like Mr. Springsteen, his most obvious role model in relating to an audience, Mr. Browne is not just a rock singer but a moral figurehead.

On Tuesday, this heroic stance was borne out by passionate performances of the mid-1970's generational anthem ''For Everyman,'' the recent antinuclear song, ''Say It Isn't True,'' and of his amusingly surreal meditation on American history, ''Lawyers in Love.'' Only in the preachy soliloquy of ''Hold Out'' did Mr. Browne push this image into something uncomfortably sentimental.

The band, which featured the drummer Russ Kunkel and the guitarist Rick Vito, translated Mr. Browne's music into a stately arena rock style characterized by clear instrumental definition and very even dynamics. Mr. Vito's long-lined guitar solos underscored the essential plaintiveness of Mr. Browne's melodies, helping to fuse their echoes of cowboy melodies and Protestant hymns into a lyrical style that was contemplative and aggressive at the same time.

By Stephen Holden via The New York Times.
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