Many of Jackson Browne's new songs were pedantic and abstract on his new album "Lives in the Balance," but at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night, the same songs were compelling and down-to-earth.

Propelled by assertive drummer Ian Wallace and guitarist Kevin Dukes, Browne's songs were accompanied by a backdrop of 15 video screens that were synchronized with the music. The video technology was used with a restraint that made the poignant photos all the more effective.On Browne's new anthem, "For America," a dazzling montage of images -- from mushroom clouds to Little Richard, from the Ku Klux Klan to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- summed up the contradictions inherent in the song's unblinking patriotism. Browne delivered an impassioned, impromptu speech asserting that musicians must raise the political issues of the day, because politicians so often avoid controversy. A few minutes later he apologized for "ranting," but spoke with obvious passion about the war in Central America ("Lives in the Balance") and the nuclear threat ("Say It Isn't True").

He closed the show with rousing, affectionate versions of his biggest hits, "Running on Empty" and "The Load Out/Stay," which he originally recorded at Merriweather seven years ago.