Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"The Load-Out/Stay"

There's no end of songs about touring: any band worth its salt has written about the hard-luck days living out of the back of a van, humping amps and eating at greasy-spoon roadside shacks.
But when a band or artist makes it, they get to relax, travel in a little more style, and have people to do things for them. Personal managers, cooks, you name it, they're on the road these days. But one group has always been there, the backbone of any touring act: the roadies. "Now the seats are all empty/Let the roadies take the stage/Pack it up and tear it down/They're the first to come and the last to leave/Working for that minimum wage/They'll set it up in another town."
There's something about live, solo performance that is more compelling than any amount of studio production. Call it courage, call it chops, but that's when you really find out if an artist can hack it. This song is an ancient Jackson Browne track, a tribute to the road crew, to the audience, to the whole romance of being on the road. He strips away the bravado, the whoremongering, the attitude and the dirt of touring, leaving just the essentials: performance, hard work and travel. And it's proof positive that he has one of the great, pure voices. He doesn't need to hide.

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