The appropriately tagged “I’m Alive” (Elektra) was released last fall to much applause from fans who had grown weary of the overt political themes of much of Browne’s ’80s music. Moving from world events to affairs of the heart, Browne sought the healing powers of his songwriting pen and, in the process, crafted one of the most stirring efforts of his 10-album career.
Much of “I’m Alive,” written and recorded during the last four years of Browne’s relationship with actress Daryl Hannah, appears to lurk in self-pity. But onstage the songs of heartache and personal doubt become healing tomes, soaring with a reflective yet strong spirit that recalls the 45-year-old singer’s younger days.
Focusing mostly on the new album, as well as his best ’70s material, the newly engaged singer led his dynamic nine-piece band through two hours of musical celebration. The show bridged the surprisingly short distance between 1973’s “For Everyman” and the recent, reggae-twisted “Everywhere I Go,” as well as between the mournful “In the Shape of a Heart” and “I’m Alive’s” hesitantly willful title track.
Other highlights included the hit “Boulevard” (the first number to get the locals off their chairs), Browne’s contribution to the Eagles’ career, the desert-inspired “Take It Easy,” and what has become something of his signature song, a rousing encore rendition of the Zodiacs’ “Stay.”
Still youthful physically, Browne smiled shyly for his hometown fans, embracing with them the joy that songs of liberation and strength can bring.