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Jason Isbell and Father John Misty deliver indie hits and heavy emotions at the Armory Friday

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit The Armory Minneapolis Minnesota
Jason Isbell - photo by Laura Buhman

Any aficionado of The Current would’ve been giddy to see Friday night’s lineup, as Jade Bird, Jason Isbell and Father John Misty were all set to hit the Armory’s stage.

The trio promised to tickle ears with a little bit of country, folk, blues and rock – as well as every other possible concoction of those genres they could cook up.

While the discography of the co-headliners themselves brought excitement, the pairing was, admittedly, a bit odd. If one thing tied them all together, it was their self-awareness of their sadness.

Luckily good ‘ole 89.3 was live streaming the entire thing.

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Jade Bird kicked off the night telling tales of thinking on old, slightly bitter love in “Uh Huh” and “Good At It.”

Jade Bird The Armory Minneapolis Minnesota
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Jade Bird – photo by Laura Buhman

The venue’s vaulted ceilings, which she said reminded her of a London train station, were perfect to let the belted purity and rasp of her choruses ring out.

Under six purple spotlights, she was alone onstage with her acoustic guitar, but she held everyone’s attention by emoting such a booming sound and bubbly personality out of her (only 21-year-old) body.

Concentrating on her 2019 self-titled debut album – written entirely by Bird – she shined on guitar with the sparkling “Side Effects” and “Lottery.”

Jade Bird The Armory Minneapolis Minnesota
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Jade Bird – photo by Laura Buhman

“Going with the happy theme, this [next] one is called ‘I Get No Joy,’” she said with the cheeriest of little laughs.

Luckily the audience got not only a lot of joy from her set, but even a special treat, as she ended with a cover of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

The English singer-songwriter may not have been everywhere just yet, but she will be at First Avenue this upcoming October.

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It was crystal clear that things were to continue on the country train by the manner in which Jason Isbell came out: “Howdy folks, it’s great to see y’all this evening.”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Derry DeBorja The Armory Minneapolis Minnesota
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Jason Isbell and Derry DeBorja – photo by Laura Buhman

The opening darkness and angst of “Anxiety” moved later into “White Man’s World” and displayed Isbell’s firm grasp on dancing the line of rock, country and blues.

Moving from musicality alone, his lyrical artistry was evident in the acoustic guitar and piano duet for the emotionally heavy “Elephant” and the tale of eventual sobriety in “Cover Me Up.”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit The Armory Minneapolis Minnesota
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Jason Isbell – photo by Laura Buhman

While he was surrounded by his band, the 400 Unit, his violinist and wife was not in attendance. There was a seemingly purposeful yet beautiful emptiness where her lines should’ve been throughout the set.

Ending his time as the middle act of the night, a blues-heavy cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” immediately transitioned into a stripped down “If We Were Vampires,” showing an abrupt yet enjoyable illustration of Isbell’s perfectly simplistic, yet soulful, range of songwriting.

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Father John Misty was next and last to parade on stage, which he did quite literally. As he strutted along the front of the stage to the opening “Hangout at the Gallows,” his hips were swaying, his hands were fluttering and his arms were giving Mick Jagger the slightest of runs for his money… well, that’s a bit of a stretch.

Father John Misty The Armory Minneapolis Minnesota
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Father John Misty – photo by Laura Buhman

He was pitch perfect to his studio album sound, as he and the rest of his band were in sync. Their playing felt almost a little too perfect at times, seemingly switching accuracy for a bit more soul. That might’ve just stemmed from a deep focus for the live stream.

He played through more than a dozen tracks from a handful of different records, including songs “Mr. Tillman,” “Ballad of a Dying Man” and “Please Don’t Die.”

Isbell and Mr. Misty seem like an odd pairing to co-headline a tour. If one had opened, that would be at least a reason for the slight disconnect. However, with Bird starting the night off so strongly in her folky, country tunes, it was a bit obtuse nearly removing that vibe for the last act.

“I gotta say, Jason really kicked my ass,” Father John Misty said to resounding cheers and whoops. “Oh, y’all mean playing before me? Oh, I meant writing for A Star Is Born…”

Father John Misty The Armory Minneapolis Minnesota
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Father John Misty – photo by Laura Buhman

Continuing his mopey commentary, “My songs sound like they were written by an animatronic bear with a “XXX” labeled bottle and one eye that never moved (…) I go my ear pierced today, it’s not good. Things are not going well.”

After all this rambling, he mentioned The Current’s archived clips of the show would be perfect for some future documentary producer to show the months before he would be admitted to the hospital. These eerie, slightly funny, but generally off-putting comments gave a weird air to the next few songs when he jumped casually into the upbeat “Real Love Baby.”

As the night died down, and as many people admittedly left early, 2015’s “I Love You, Honeybear” finished the regular set before he went into an encore.

Father John Misty The Armory Minneapolis Minnesota
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Father John Misty – photo by Laura Buhman

Despite any confusion on the pairing of the touring acts or feelings of general melancholy, his final song, “I’m Writing a Novel,” left everyone on a square dancing note. The country twang of that folk rock was the final feeling everyone wanted from such a heavy-hitting bill of Jade Bird, Jason Isbell and Father John Misty on a Friday night at the Armory.

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