JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT GIG REVIEW
Currently touring throughout Europe, LGA reviewer, Paul Wood caught Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on their last UK date at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham.
Jason Isbell has been recording and touring with steadily increasing acclaim since his departure from the Drive By Truckers in 2007. His 4th solo album “Southeastern” earned him a clean sweep at the 2014 Americana Music Awards and follow up album “Something More Than Free” made top position in the Billboard rock, folk and country record charts.
Isbell’s latest studio album “The Nashville Sound” is credited to Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and its songs are the centerpiece of tonight’s show.
The line up for the European tour comprises Jason Isbell (guitar), Derry deBorja (keyboards), Chad Gamble (drums), Jimbo Hart (bass), and Sadler Vaden (guitar). This is the band featured on “The Nashville Sound”, although Isbell’s wife, Amanda Shires (fiddle) hasn’t come over for the European dates.
The opening couple of songs had a full on rock sound with both Isbell and fellow guitarist Sadler Vaden on electric guitar. The opening sound (imagine a mix between Steve Earle in his rocky period and Bruce Springsteen) was probably a bit loud for the Symphony Hall acoustics and the keyboard was pretty much lost underneath the guitars and bass.
Here’s a link to the promo video (with lyrics) for the second song of the night “24 Frames”:
As the set pacing changed and Isbell switched to an acoustic the sound became much better balanced and the whole sound became clearer, even when it got rockier again later in the set. Here’s a link to Isbell’s promo live video of “Hope The High Road”
For quieter numbers, the band slimmed down to just leave on stage Isbell and whoever was needed, before the whole band was back again for the final series of numbers. Here’s a link to the promo video for his rather gorgeous song “Cover Me Up”
The main set drew to a close with some flashy guitar interplay between guitarist Vaden (an impressive player throughout the evening) and Isbell.
The set list was a good mix of the new album (8 songs) and favourites from earlier albums, “Southeastern” (3 songs), “Something More Than Free” (3 songs) and the 2011 album “Here We Rest” (2 songs).
There was also a nod back to the Drive By Truckers with “Decoration Day” and main set closer “Never Gonna Change”.
No two sets on the UK dates was exactly the same, numbers being added or dropped out, presumably to keep it fresh for the band and for the audience, a clear number of which had caught more than one show on the tour.
Here’s a link to Isbell’s promo video for “If We Were Vampires” which was played as the first encore of the night.
Looking at the set lists from other dates on the tour, Isbell has been playing a Tom Petty song in his encore selection and tonight was no exception, the audience being treated to a slammin’ version of “Refugee”.
The Symphony Hall was clearly (almost) full with Isbell fans. His last few albums have seen him make great strides in terms of commercial success and this was a good well paced show from a guy with a growing back catalogue of impressive songs. Jason Isbell is an artist well worth checking out on his next European tour.
- 24 Frames
- Hope The High Road
- White man’s World
- Decoration day
- Something More Than Free
- Last Of My Kind
- Alabama Pines
- Cumberland Gap
- Cover me Up
- If It Takes A Lifetime
- Never Gonna Change
- If We Were Vampires