Jason Isbell: Honest, Unforgettable Rock and Roll at New York City’s Beacon Theatre
From his tour of duty with the Drive-By Truckers for the better part of the 2000s to his most recent solo effort, the immaculate 'Southeastern,' Jason Isbell's talents have been on full display for quite some time.
Every aspect of that expertise -- rooted in Americana and alt country and soaked in unadulterated rock and roll -- is captured in his live performance. Isbell's fierce ability to tell stories, authentic relationship with the crowd and unexpectedly exceptional guitar skills are sewn throughout the fabric of his concerts.
Saturday night (Feb. 7), we had the distinct honor of witnessing Isbell's live show in one of the most beautiful music venues in New York City, the Beacon Theatre. Isbell agreed as it didn't take long for him to humbly admit, "This is one of the finest places I've ever played in."
Taking the stage with his five-piece band -- including wife Amanda Shires on fiddle who flew in for the show -- Isbell introduced himself and then proudly stated, "We are the 400 Unit." With that, they tore into 'Stockholm' and 'Flying Over Water' from 'Southeastern' -- but the night wasn't dedicated solely to that masterpiece. Throughout the set, Isbell and company gave raucous renditions of his solo material, a handful of Drive-By Truckers tunes and even an unforgettable duet between Isbell and Shires covering Warren Zevon's 'Mutineer' (which, as he told the crowd, will be available for purchase for Valentine's Day).
While each and every song had its own unique experience attached to it -- 'Decoration Day' was preceded by Isbell admitting many of his songs are taken from old family stories; he once ruined a young fan's view of 'Live Oak' by pondering whether the girl in the song actually died, or if she was just buried alive -- the standout highlight of the Beacon set came in the form of 'Southeastern''s opening track, 'Cover Me Up.'
Isbell explained to the audience that he wrote the song for his wife, so it was extra special for him to be able to sing it to her in New York City. While the studio track remains calm and subdued throughout its nearly five-minute runtime, the live performance culminated in an explosive finale with drummer Chad Gamble leading the charge. In fact, the song was so powerful in its single showing that it earned a boisterous standing ovation from the crowd.
There's no denying Isbell is one of the most honest songwriters around today, but his live presence pushes the sentiment that he is one of our most genuine performers as well -- and we think it's safe to say the 2,900 fans in attendance at the sold-out Beacon Theatre would agree.
Opening the night was none other than Damien Jurado, a Seattle indie folkster who has been creating a similarly honest brand of music since the mid-'90s. Armed with just his acoustic guitar, Jurado played 10 songs in the span of 40 minutes, and had a familiar reaction to playing the beautiful Beacon Theatre: "This is officially the biggest venue I've ever played in my entire life."
Aside from some summer music festivals, Isbell is on the road through mid-February; you can grab his full itinerary here. But don't worry -- it sounds like he'll be back on the road in no time as he's planning on hitting the studio with the 400 Unit to work on the highly-anticipated follow-up to 'Southeastern.'
In the meantime, check out his full setlist -- as well as his beautiful performance of 'Cover Me Up' from his Jan. 11, 2014 appearance on PBS' 'Austin City Limits' -- below:
Jason Isbell -- Setlist, Feb. 7, 2015
‘Flying Over Water’
‘Tour of Duty’
‘Go It Alone’
‘New South Wales’
‘Cover Me Up’
‘Songs That She Sang in the Shower’
‘Never Gonna Change’
‘Danko / Manuel’
‘Mutineer’ (Warren Zevon cover)
Damien Jurado -- Setlist, Feb. 7, 2015
‘Museum of Flight’
‘I Will Remember’
Watch Jason Isbell Perform 'Cover Me Up' on 'Austin City Limits'