The second leg of Jason Isbell's summer tour in support of the recently released The Nashville Sound
came to Northeast Ohio last night at the Goodyear Theater in Akron. That the former Drive-by Trucker has graduated and matured to an alt-country star who's crossed over musical charts and easily packs 2,000-plus seat venues across the country is somewhat surprising, but shouldn't be to anyone who's followed his solo career before and after the critically acclaimed Southeastern
in 2013, or anyone who's caught a live show.
The Alabama native turned Nashville transplant ran through a tight hour-and-a-half or so setlist that drew heavily from his most recent LP and 2015's Something More Than Free
early in the evening. Backed by the 400 Unit, including his wife Amanda Shires (who opened for her husband with her own songs and band), Isbell spun through a catalog of heartbreak, introspection, maturation, loneliness and love that draw emotional weight and inspiration from the many changes in his life — having a child, getting sober — since he left the Truckers.
Stirring and tight, the performance was energetic and, between songs, boisterously received by the packed house. Goodyear Theater, a very recent addition to the Northeast Ohio concert scene, is an entirely seated venue, and the crowd was more than happy to plant their butts in those seats during the tunes. While it didn't necessarily detract from the show, it certainly felt different than Isbell's stop at the House of Blues a few years ago.
Rounding the corner toward a two-song encore of "If We Were Vampires" and "Never Gonna Change" (a Truckers song) Isbell finally dipped back to some of the highlights from Southeastern
and brought out another Trucker number, the always-welcome "Decoration Day."
We could have happily enjoyed an evening of Southeastern
played in full, and even though the selections didn't include "Elephant," "Cover Me Up" was a show-stopping highlight that felt amped up from the album version. And though it would have been nice to hear "Alabama Pines," perhaps his biggest song before breaking out big, these are minor qualms in what was a tight, thoroughly enjoyable evening, and like names of new friends made after the show, they're forgotten quickly.