Designated Driver. Music to my ears when the show is across the bridge. The wife volunteered to do the driving duties, so I broke the seal on a bottle of Beam early for this show. Gone solo or not, Isbell, in my opinion, is still part of the Trucker family and half a bottle deep is the best way to start a night at the rock show. Common decency dictates the whole deal. The last time the Truckers were in town, they played to a packed Jannus Landing, and on the way to the show I wondered how that would translate for Isbell. The crowd was significantly reduced compared to the Jannus show, but it was still bigger than most for an artist touring on their debut cd.
Jason and his band took the stage with the familiar Jack Daniels bottle in hand, and in that single moment I knew everything was gonna be okay. Opening the show with “Brand New Kind of Actress”, the same track that opens the cd, gave me a moment of worry. Ever since I saw Social Distortion play their new cd track by track, in order, and then walk off stage, I have worried when a show opens with the first track from the current album. Five minutes later, though, all my worries were squashed as Jason started picking the familiar opening riffs of “Decoration Day”….and the crowd went wild. From there, the band played a good mix of songs from Sirens, spiced with DBT familiars, and a few covers to round out the set. The crowd favorites were obviously Jason’s old DBT tracks “Outfit” and “Never Gonna Change”. Walking in, I wanted to hear two songs, my very favorite Isbell song, “Goddamn Lonely Love”, and my favorite track from the new cd “Try”. He managed to get both into the set, so I went home drunk and happy.
In closing, I would like to type a few lines about the band itself. Ever since Jason went solo, I have wondered about the 400 Unit. Was it really Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, or was it Jason Isbell and a revolving cast of players that were gonna heretofore be known as the 400 Unit? While I will not pretend to actually know anything beyond what anyone can see, standing out in front of a stage and watching them play, they certainly seemed to be a band and not a front guy with some hired guns. They were tighter than I expected them to be, and guitarist Browan Lollar even got to take over lead singer duties during a rather spirited cover of The Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”. Speaking of Lollar, whew, did Jason find himself a gem in that guy! That kid has got so much stage presence and charisma oozing out of him that I found it hard to watch the rest of the band at times. Oh yeah, and the boy can play the fucking hell out of a guitar as well.
All in all, I was really happy with Jason’s creation. I hope he keeps this lineup for the next cd and I look forward to hearing what Jason does now that this has his undivided attention.