Friday 22nd January. The Forum. John Moreland/Jason Isbell. It’s fair to say I have been looking forward to this gig for months. As soon as I heard John Moreland was supporting I knew we would be in for a treat. With one of the best albums of last year Moreland has not been across the pond before and Isbell, whose last album I didn’t think as strong as Southeastern, is always a superb live artist.
It’s a big turnout tonight with a nine strong gig going group. All have seen Isbell before and I manage to persuade some to join me for Moreland. The first surprise was the amount of people who were in for a support act. The venue is 80% full which is a testament to his talent. He ambles on stage and rattles though forty minutes of the finest Americana you will ever hear. He is warmly received and the disappointment is that it’s only nine songs, only three from High on Tulsa Heat and you are very much left wanting more. Here’s hoping it’s not too long before he’s back headlining and we can all give him a high as suggested by Isbell later on.
Expectations are always high when we see Isbell. We have seen a couple of times as a fresh faced young ‘un in Drive by Truckers sharing the Jack on stage as they do to five times as a solo artist. He has never disappointed whether it’s solo acoustic with his wife supporting on fiddle to full on rock with the 400 Unit.
It’s the usual mix of old and new solo work with a trip back to a few DBT classics. Standout songs from the new album fair well especially Speed Trap Town, 24 Frames and Ryan Adamseque ‘The Life you Chose’. The ‘Southeastern’ songs just ooze quality although I wasn’t convinced with the arrangement for Travelling Alone.
Highlights for me were the best version of ‘Decoration Day’ I have heard, absolutely stunning as was ‘Never gonna change’ and the guitar interplay between Isbell and Sadler Vaden, late of Drivin n Cryin and a fine solo artist, was superb. The latter song could have come straight from a Neil Young and Crazy Horse album and there is no higher praise.
What struck me this time was the development of Isbell’s voice. From the shy side man in Drive by Truckers he has matured into not only a great singer, songwriter and guitarist but the depth and strength of his voice has gone to another level.
Another top class show from Isbell who is a must see anytime he is over.
Keep on rockin y’all.