Browne didn't waste any time in doing away with the normal formalities of a typical Paramount show. Before Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins and Tyler Chester kicked off the opening set, Browne emerged on stage, wearing an easy grin and offering early thanks to the milling crowd for their attendance. He set the mood before he played a note, and it was a genuine and heartfelt tone that would mark the entire evening. That's not to say Browne's performance was sloppy or understudied. The twenty-song performance included selections from all phases of the musician's forty-year career.
Switching between piano and a selection of about fifteen acoustic guitars (all arrayed in neat rows on stage), Browne drew support from a revolving cadre of five musicians. Along with Sara and Sean Watkins and Tyler Chester, guitarist Val McCullum and drummer Fritz Lewak added different degrees of instrumentation and contours to classic Browne tunes. At its heart, however, the performance stayed pretty well rooted in Browne's signature sound elements. His tenor voice was as calm and implacable as ever. His approach on the guitar was rooted in alternate tunings and his measured piano style was steady and straightforward. The elements were all there from the first strains of the opening songs, "Black and White," "I'm Alive" and "Call It a Loan," a song written with David Lindley.
It only took Browne a short time to take a break from the set boundaries of the prearranged song list. As he picked up one of his many acoustic guitars and prepared to launch into the song after "Call It a Loan," an audience member called for "Farther On." Browne stopped, brought the guitar back to the stand and took up a seat behind the piano to accommodate the request. "I'm drawn to doing songs we haven't been doing, just to see if I get through them," Browne explained after the spot-on rendition.
A mix of familiar and obscure followed. Browne referenced the recent presidential election before launching into "Looking East," the title song from his 1996 album that demands, "How long have I left my mind to the powers that be? How long will it take to find the higher power moving in me?" Browne broke out a nylon string guitar for "Live Nude Cabaret," a tune that benefited from Sara Watkins' consummate skill on the fiddle.