"We learned this song from Bonnie Raitt," Jackson Browne told the Constitution Hall audience Sunday night. "Actually, I wrote it, but we learned it from Bonnie." He then sang "Soldier of Plenty" with his acoustic trio in a very Raitt-like country-blues arrangement complete with slide-guitar fills by Scott Thurston. The stripped-down, understated version of this anti-war song was much more effective than the overbearing 1986 album version, and it set the tone for a show in which many of Browne's songs benefited from low-key, acoustic-roots arrangements.
It was a return to the sound of Browne's early days in the coffeehouses, and Thurston filled David Lindley's old role as well as anyone could be expected to. Political songs such as "World in Motion" and "The Word Justice" worked much better in a rural blues format, and older confessional songs such as "For a Dancer," "Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate" and a medley of "Doctor My Eyes" with "These Days" became stirring secular hymns with Browne knocking out gospel piano chords and Thurston lacing them up with slide guitar.
For the encore versions of "Lawless Avenues" and "Linda Paloma," Browne was joined by Sangre Machehual, an all-star Latin American "nueva cancion" group based in Los Angeles. Sangre Machehual (which means "Blood of the Poor") opened the show with its own rousing set, alternating between the atmospheric pan pipes and charangos of Andean music and the hard-strumming guitars and vocal harmonies of urban Latin folk music. The eight musicians (from eight different countries) included the renowned nylon-string guitar duo of Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah, who dazzled the crowd with their intricate, high-speed solos.