This was sincerely one of the best shows I’ve been to.
The show, staged at the House of Blues in Cleveland, OH, was opened by a roughly thirty minute opening set by Craig Finn (who played completely by himself with no backing band). Finn had some good songs and shared some good stories with the audience. Largely, the crowd near the front was respectful and attentive, but in the back, I could hear a lot of chatter going on by people who didn’t seem interested in hearing him play, which was a shame because Finn is a talented singer and songwriter. This however fell in line with a buddy of mine who had the same experience in Rochester, NY the preceding night where the crowd behaved in the same way.
A lot of the next two hours was spent on songs from his 2013 album Southeastern. He played nine of the twelve songs off of that album. But he didn’t ignore his older material either. A few songs from his Drive-By Truckers albums were included in the set (including “Outfit,” “Never Gonna Change,” “Decoration Day,” and “Danko/Manuel”) as were concert staples “Dress Blues” and “Alabama Pines” and a few new songs from his upcoming album as well.
Isbell knows how to engage the crowd. During the show he discussed playing an outdoor show where a nine-year-old fan had a sign which requested that he play his song “Live Oak.” After the show, the girl and her father came up to him backstage and asked him why the song “never explained how the girl died.” Not wanting to scare the girl, he tried to come up with something quick and responded “well, maybe she didn’t die, maybe she just got buried,” and immediately realized that was worse than the real answer.
The evening also saw Isbell have a lot of fun with his band members and spotlighted how well this group of men works together. However, during very acoustic songs like “Cover Me Up,” and “Elephant,” the show highlighted the personal and intimate nature of these songs with the spotlight directly on Isbell with the rest of the stage virtually darkened.
I can’t say enough what a fantastic show this was. Isbell is an amazing singer, songwriter, and performer and I look forward to the chance to see him live again in the future.
Tour of Duty
Flying Over Water
Cover Me Up
Speed Trap Town (new song)
24 Frames (new song)
Never Gonna Change
Something More Than Free (new song)