Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit made their return to the Armory stage on Wednesday night. The show was originally scheduled for spring of 2020, but we all know what happened there. The droves of fans would have to wait… and wait.
The venue was filled with fans in the highest of spirits. Some even met up as they always do at Isbell shows. Some have even been following him on the road. There’s a huge community around the music that you can’t help but appreciate.
I heard a lot of fans state that it was their first show since concerts started back up. This was largely due to Isbell’s requirement for vaccinations to attend his concerts. This policy may have been divisive to some, but it made the show a lot more enjoyable for those in attendance.
One great thing that came from the wait was not one, but two new albums to round out the much-anticipated set. Summer of 2020 brought us the brilliant Reunions release and Record Store Day Black Friday brought us Georgia Blue – a covers album of artists from Georgia in celebration of 2020’s election results in the state.
His set was heavily steeped in songs from Reunions, but left plenty of room for older fan favorites like “24 Frames”, “Stockholm”, and “Hope The High Road”. “If We Were Vampires” captivated the audience, but it wasn’t the most tender moment of the set like usual. Even as warm red lights washed over the stage.
“Letting You Go” took that trophy. Isbell played it for his 6-year-old daughter who was sitting side stage. He gently mentioned that he had to play it for her early in the set because it was time for her to go to bed, and he had promised her that he would play it.
“Being your daddy comes natural
The roses just know how to grow
It’s easy to see that you’ll get where you’re going
But the hard part is letting you go”
One highlight from the set was a performance of their cover of R.E.M.’s “Driver 8”, as well as a cover of “Honeysuckle Blue” led by 400 Unit guitarist and Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ leader Sadler Vaden. Longtime fans also went wild for “Goddamn Lonely Love” and “Never Gonna Change” – both are covers of Drive-By Truckers, which Isbell used to be a part of.
The 400 Unit proved again to be an incredible combo with Isbell during “Dreamsicle” where Vaden and Isbell jammed closely on guitar together. Derry DeBorja’s keyboard station was like a secondary stage for Isbell to stand and feed off of the musical energy.
Jimbo Hart and Chad Gamble rounded out the group with the intricate bass and driving drumbeats that held the rhythm felt throughout the venue. It’s an absolute joy to watch musicians who are so talented bring these songs to life on stage.
“Cover Me Up” closed out the set in a powerful fashion. Isbell’s voice balanced between moments of power and moments of tenderness. Slowly his acoustic guitar was joined by Hart, Gamble, DeBorja, and Vaden to drive the track home with the firey sentiment.
Of course, the break between sets didn’t last too long. The crowd cheered tirelessly until the band came back to play “Speedtrap Town” and “Never Gonna Change”. 19 songs may sound like a long setlist, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that we would have loved 19 more!
What’ve I Done to Help
Hope the High Road
Letting You Go
It Gets Easier
The Life You Chose
Last of My Kind
Honeysuckle Blue (Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ cover)
If We Were Vampires
Goddamn Lonely Love (Drive‐By Truckers cover)
Driver 8 (R.E.M. cover)
Cover Me Up
Speed Trap Town
Never Gonna Change (Drive‐By Truckers cover)