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Author Topic: Jackson Browne in Concert 2016 - A Mixed Review  (Read 2304 times)
JamesN
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« on: June 05, 2016, 07:56:37 PM »

My family and I went to see Jackson Brown in concert this past Friday. I am a big fan of his, and my wife and I had seen him once before back in the mid-90s Unfortunately this latest evening was a mixed bag.

The good:
The performance itself was outstanding. Browne's band was tight; Val McCallum on guitar and Greg Leisz on all manner of stringed instruments, especially, were positively virtuosic. Browne himself was in top form. His voice was strong and confident. His range seems to have diminished slightly as the years have gone by (he sings many of his older songs a full step or so lower than originally written.) However, his "older" voice has a richness to it that I think I prefer to his "younger" voice. He played a great number of the songs I had hoped he would (including Carlos Varela's Walls and Doors, a gorgeous song that Browne translated from the original Spanish, and I'll Do Anything, currently my favorite Browne song). So what wasn't to like?

The bad:
We saw Browne at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, PA. Heinz Hall is home to the Pittsburgh Symphony. It was renovated from a 20's era movie palace in the 70's and transformed into a performing arts center. I have seen many performances there and the acoustics are outstanding. Little amplification is needed to make a performer heard.

But Browne's sound crew came loaded for bear. They mixed the show like it was an outdoor arena. My son measured average SPLs at 92 dB using a phone app - dangerously close to permissible exposure levels before hearing loss. The highs were shrill and piercing. The lows were gut punching (think South Park "brown note" episode). The entire mix was absolute mud. All musical subtlety and nuance were totally obliterated. It was like listening to the sound system at an ice skating rink.

What an absolute waste. A venue with stellar acoustics, an iconic singer/songwriter at top form, a killer band...and a sound crew (probably with hearing loss of their own obscuring their judgement) turning music and magic into discomfort.

Man am I disappointed.
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jpmist
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« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2016, 10:40:55 PM »

Too bad the sound engineer screwed up, a real shame they didn't know the venue better than they did. . .

I got his recent album and liked quite a few songs on it. My particular favorite was "Leaving Winslow" did he play that one?
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« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2016, 11:09:15 PM »

Phone apps are notoriously bad for giving accurate SPL using the built in microphones. That said, your subjective impression and description of the mix seems all too common these days. Remembering great mixes at shows is unfortunately uncommon these days.

Sorry to hear that what was there to hear was unpleasant. Gotta imagine you paid a nic sum for the tickets.
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JamesN
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« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2016, 11:55:58 PM »

...I got his recent album and liked quite a few songs on it. My particular favorite was "Leaving Winslow" did he play that one?

He did quite a few songs from Standing in the Breach, unfortunately Leaving Winslow was not one of them. I like that song a lot too. The verse about the "octogenarian ladies man" still cracks me up every time I hear it. Another song from that album that I love and he didn't do was You Know The Night, a Woodie Guthrie poem that Browne and Rob Wasserman set to music. Or at least part of the poem -- it's pretty lengthy. I couldn't believe the lyrics were Guthrie's when I first head it -- so richly poetic and different in style than the works Guthrie is better known for.

...your subjective impression and description of the mix seems all too common these days. Remembering great mixes at shows is unfortunately uncommon these days...

Yeah, I saw James Taylor last year at the Consol Energy Center where the Pittsburgh Penguins play. Pretty much a huge hockey rink with challenged acoustics. The engineers for that show did an admirable job with what they had to work with. Everything was clear and well balanced, if not particularly nuanced. I expected much worse but was pleasantly surprised.

The engineers at Browne's show had a venue handed to them with innately balanced, reverberant acoustics and they utterly destroyed the sound. Heinz Hall has its own house PA system finely tuned and EQ'ed for that hall. Browne brought his own PA stack.
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Barefoot Rob
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2016, 12:25:55 AM »

Don't blame the sound guy right off most of the time they do what there told....
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2016, 01:28:03 AM »

My wife and I had a similar experience last April at a George Thorogood concert.  In Edmonton we have an excellent venue, the Jubilee Auditorium (home of the Edmonton Symphony).  It has very good acoustics as well.  However, the concert was so loud, it was uncomfortable to listen to.  As in your case, the sound crew blew it and it came off as muddy sounding.  The performance was excellent, but not the sound.   I have been to dozens of concerts in that hall including some famous rock bands, and I know it can sound incredibly good in there.
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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2016, 11:21:16 AM »

I saw him in concert on his solo tour a few years ago. He claimed to have a bad cold but still sang fairly well. Had about 18 guitars with him. I've mostly disliked his last couple of albums, however, as he is back to the political stuff that I don't care for. The double live album recorded in Spain with Lindley is terrific though. Would love to see him with that band. That Val McCallum is one tall fellow though, ain't he?
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« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2016, 05:18:34 PM »

We saw him recently here in FL at our little 2000 seat local auditorium at the community college.
Absolutely great show despite the acoustics in the place.

The wife and I had seats way off to the side; so,
about 1/2 way thru, we moved closer to the center to some vacant ones.

Here comes security. cop

They were after some drunk somebody had complained about in our row, but I was sure it was us they wanted.

"Honest Officer!  We'll go back to our seats!!!  Please just let see the rest of the show!!!!"

(Geriatric Hooligans)

 

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George
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« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2016, 09:55:50 PM »

My wife and I had a similar experience last April at a George Thorogood concert.  In Edmonton we have an excellent venue, the Jubilee Auditorium (home of the Edmonton Symphony).  It has very good acoustics as well.  However, the concert was so loud, it was uncomfortable to listen to.  As in your case, the sound crew blew it and it came off as muddy sounding.  The performance was excellent, but not the sound.   I have been to dozens of concerts in that hall including some famous rock bands, and I know it can sound incredibly good in there.

The sad thing is that it does not have to happen like this.  One of the best concerts I have attended in my entire life was held in a theater that was built around 1900 and had the most awesome acoustics.  It even had a pipe organ, with pipes built into the walls, that was hydraulically raised from the orchestra pit.  I heard it played a few times, pretty dadburn awesome too.  Anyway, this particular concert had the most well behaved crowd of hippies I have ever seen in one place, they just sat in their seats and listened to the performance, and the sound man did a great job of NOT blowing it...  Very clear, broad and dynamic, you could hear a pin drop in the silences...
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« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2016, 05:09:59 AM »

I saw him in a smaller venue in Austin a few years back. It was a fine concert. I even had him respond to me telling him to play what he wanted to. (though I would like to have heard him play Further On)  The little lady enjoyed it as well.
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