As folks rolled into Buckhead Friday night filling the bars and clogging up the roads, the music was just getting started at the Buckhead Theatre. Jason Isbell and his band rolled into town dishing out a batch of tunes that had the jam packed house waiting on every note. St. Paul & the Broken Bones opened the night, and if you were there early enough you saw one damn fine display of classic southern soul music. Jason Isbell is one of the finest songwriters out there today and if you have not listened to his latest record Southeastern you are really missing out.
Last night in Atlanta he brought his “A” game with a collection of tunes that covered his solo records a taste of his period with the Drive-By Truckers and a couple of sweet covers. The band was sharp and sounded great as the music reverberated off of the walls and ceilings of the Buckhead Theatre. The music started rowdy with “Decoration Day” finding itself included in one of the early tunes before Mr. Isbell switched to the acoustic and treated the crowd to some of his saddest songs, which was a good thing. “Stockholm”, “Live Oak” and “Travelling Alone” leaped from the speakers cementing his brilliance as a song writer and when he played “Elephant” with just he and his wife on stage it was incredible. As the night edged towards coming to a close they kicked things back up a notch with rowdy versions of “Super 8” and “Never Gonna Change” that threatened to bring down the roof at the venue. While it was his original music everyone came to see, the two cover tunes were nice treats for the audience. They rocked out to the Stones “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” which had the crowd jacked and earlier Isbell and Shires pulled off an incredible version of Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer”. One of his best tunes, they made the tune theirs with vocal harmonies and a haunting guitar/fiddle combo. Jason made the crowd a part of his show, cracking a joke when some random dude shouted out that his wife was hot, referring to Sadler Vaden as an ex pro putt putt golfer with a tiny caddie or taking blame for the Braves losses this year because they always lose when he wears pants. It is this interaction that makes the crowd comfortable and feel like one of Jason’ buddies.
Before Isbell wowed the crowd Birmingham’s St. Paul & the Broken Bones took the stage and proceeded to reel off a bad ass set of classic soul music. Not looking like your prototypical soul band, they brought all the theatrics, moves and sounds of James Brown, Sam & Dave or Otis Redding. They are not a cover band but their music resembles the classic sounds so well it sounds oh so familiar. Many in the crowd were not sure who they were but after the horns kicked in and Paul Janeway jumped onto the stage and started belting out notes they were hooked and impressed. When their set came to a close I was expecting to see Janeway collapse in exhaustion and have a cape draped over his back before exploding back into a song, but that didn’t happen. If you did not get there early enough to catch these guys then you truly missed out.
Friday night was one damn fine night of music in Atlanta. Jason Isbell once again showed us why he is so good. Well written tunes, catchy melodies and crowd banter that seemed natural and unforced makes for a great show. If you chose to spend your time elsewhere Friday night then you made a big mistake.