Jackson Browne is a class act that keeps getting classier.

From "Running on Empty" and "Doctor My Eyes" to "For Everyman," "The Pretender" and "Late for the Sky," Jackson has been a mainstay of the rock scene for thirty years. He's also been a pillar of strength for the movements for social justice and environmental sanity. His countless benefits have helped grassroots organizations work for peace in Latin America, fight nuclear power, and much more.

Now he's on that riskiest and most demanding of musical ventures, a solo acoustic tour.

How many rock icons could sit on a stage alone and truly hold an audience for a full concert? A loud band armed with riffs and theatrics, amps and antics, can roll over a lack of real talent. Rock is an industry built on hype, short-term profits and one-hit wonders.

But with more than a dozen albums, Jackson is still writing and recording songs that resonate emotionally, politically and spiritually. He can also perform them acoustic, on a bare stage, with warmth and genius.

By way of disclaimer, I've known Jackson since 1978, when he peformed with Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie in front of 20,000 opponents of nuclear power. It was an open-air rally at New Hampshire's Seabrook reactor site, amidst a steaming confrontation that would lead to one of the proposed plants being cancelled, and to the birth of a worldwide movement against nuclear energy. Coming nine months before the melt-down at Three Mile Island, it was the largest No Nukes rally held in the US to that time. A year later, after Three Mile Island, Jackson sang to what was again the largest safe energy rally, this time with 200,000 people at Manhattan's Battery Park City, part of the legendary No Nukes five-concert series at Madison Square Garden, which Jackson helped organize. Since then we've worked on various projects together, mostly focused on nukes and the environment.

So over the years I've heard Jackson sing with his bands numerous times, in many venues. But never alone.

With a gracious manner, that clear voice and his impeccable guitar and piano, he made the Mershon Auditorium at Ohio State into a family living room. At one point he called a friend out of the audience for two knockout duets. When persistent individuals shouted out song "suggestions," he responded with unaffected aplomb. In some cases he explained that this song or that didn't really work without a band. Sometimes he said "thanks" or "I'm really glad you suggested that," jumped up from the piano or switched guitars (he had a dozen) and did the song.

One such treat was "My Stunning Mystery Companion," a brilliant, soulful ballad about his lover of ten years. "There comes a time," he explained, "when referring to your partner as 'my girfriend' just doesn't work anymore. So I came across this phrase in a magazine that seemed just perfect."

So was the song, which closes his latest album, "The Naked Ride Home." He had finished the album, he said, "but it just didn't seem done" and then this song popped up. Full of admiration and respect, it was a perfect offering to a loving partner...and a rapt audience.

Other songs, like "Running on Empty," were a dare. He did it beautifully, but it was at the edge. When a song has gone into your head a few hundred times in a certain way, then suddenly hearing it by the author, but without that band, takes an adjustment. It's a risk.

But it worked, as did "The Pretender" and many more. Jackson's voice is mellowed, but strong. He is confident, but open to suggestion.

And sometimes, just plain overwhelming. "My Opening Farewell," one of his very earliest hits, was absolutely heart-rending.

As were "Worlds in Motion" and "Lives in the Balance". In the Reagan eighties, Jackson took some serious risks with very political songs that shot right to the core of America's too-numerous imperial outrages, especially in Latin America. I remember reading a nasty pan in "People" Magazine back then, the surest confirmation that he had hit the bullseye.

In Columbus Jackson held his politics until the encore. Then he blasted the Bush Administration and backed it up with stellar renditions of "Lives in the Balance" and the Patriot song.

The perfect punctuation to a great show. Jackson will be touring for a few more weeks; check out where at Don't be late for this guy.

Harvey Wasserman, senior editor of, is author of "Harvey Wasserman's History of the US" and co-author (with Bob Fitrakis) of "George W. Bush versus The SuperPower of Peace," available November 1.