Jackson Browne called Jonathan Wilson "the jam king," and last night Browne was one of several major artists to join the Los Angeles folk-rocker at the Troubadour for a "goodwill jam-a-thon." Taking turns onstage were the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, ELO's Jeff Lynne and fellow Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, together billed as the Merry Minstrel Musical Circus.
"I always loved this room," Campbell said of the old club early in the four-hour show, calling the gathering of musicians "a lot of people playing together that always wanted to play together."
A benefit concert for Little Kids Rock (which supplies music and instruments to U.S. schools) and the Tazzy Animal Rescue Fund, the room was packed wall-to-wall as Campbell stepped onto the small club stage. Bearded and wearing a fringe jacket, Campbell played a short set of thumping blues and rock with his band the Dirty Knobs. He led a sticky, bluesy take on J.J. Cale's "Humdinger" and Campbell's own "I Wanna Blow Up My Stereo," delivered like a Heartbreakers song with a Keith Moon beat. There was a fittingly jagged reading of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero," which flowed into the rich melody of the Beatles' "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away."
Soon after Wilson – who is credited with helping revive the Laurel Canyon music scene – and his four-piece band ripped into some Crazy Horse-like brooding on his "Valley of the Silver Moon," a cosmic Seventies-style folk-rocker. Campbell joined them for a spectral version of George Harrison's "Isn't It a Pity," which echoed Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" until the band kicked into a heavier beat.
Campbell also played with the band on Cale's "Call Me the Breeze" (famously recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Lennon's "Well Well Well," as he and Wilson traded jagged, searing guitar lines. Weir stretched out for several minutes of improv with the band and also led the Dead's "West L.A. Fadeaway" and "Truckin'," with four guitars onstage in epic twang.
Jeff Lynne came out for a two-song set of "something different," reaching back to some beloved early rock songs, including a spirited recreation of Del Shannon's 1961 hit "Runaway," with Tench on an authentic squealing organ solo. Browne called Lynne's appearance a "visitation," and the Electric Light Orchestra leader and producer followed up with Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven," an early hit for his ELO.
Browne spoke warmly about his days at the club four decades earlier and began with a bittersweet "These Days," strumming acoustic guitar to Wilson's electric. Wilson called the early Browne composition "one of the best songs ever written."
Later, Browne performed Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and what he called "a real Troubadour song" – "Take It Easy," a hit for the Eagles and an anthem from that band's earliest days playing the club, which erupted last night with overlapping guitars and charged vocals, helping take the night's jam session into the early morning hours.