Jason Isbell: Beacon Theatre 25 February 2016

The Lucero family is a group of people who look out for one another. On a Thursday in February I got a notice that one of my Lucero friends was paging me to a particular Facebook post. I go to the post and one of the Lucero Diehards had two tickets for that night’s Jason Isbell concert and his wife was sick and he couldn’t go. He was offering the tickets for free. I was the first one to respond so his wife sent the tickets to me. There were some difficulties transferring it – it was too late to change the ticket to my name so she had to make a pdf and then send it to me. I felt badly having to repeatedly email her while she was sick. Since I live in Queens it takes me a while to get to the Beacon so by the time I got the tickets and got to the theater I had missed the opening act, Shovels & Rope. That was a disappointment. I had seen them do a short set at Shaky Knees in its first year in 2013 and really liked them a lot and was looking forward to seeing them do a longer set. I beat myself up little bit in that I maybe could have made it if I’d done this or that but I am trying to let that go.

I got to the Beacon Theatre at intermission and found our seats, which were great. They were orchestra right and just a few rows back. The stage had stained glass windows in the back. When the spotlights were on it was like the lights from heaven shining on the band.


I am not that familiar with Jason Isbell and was very much looking forward to learning more about him. I knew he had been in Drive-By Truckers, was big in the Americana/roots genre, and was winning Grammys but not much else.

Isbell came out wearing a tight black shirt with the short sleeves rolled up a bit that showed off his muscles. The third song in was the Drive-By Trucker’s “Decoration Day” and then went into “Alabama Pines,” which is the only song of his that I was familiar with. He dedicated the song to Harper Lee.

During “24 Frames” I was paying particular attention to the fiddler, whose playing reminded me of Scarlet Rivera. It turns out that the fiddler is Amanda Shires, who is Isbell’s wife. When he introduced her, he prefaced it by saying that 2009 was his 1980s – Isbell has been very vocal about his alcohol and cocaine addiction. He is now in recovery with the help of his wife in addition to others. Isbell said that that week they were married three years but if felt like it was only one year. During the following song, Shires whispered in Isbell’s ear. Isbell later revealed that Shires had said, “I love you,” into the mic when he was talking about her and now she was embarrassed to realize she’d done that. It was very sweet. And I’m assuming embarrassing for her that he was telling the audience the story. The next song was “Cover Me Up” and the audience cheered when he sang the lyric about sobering up.

Other songs he played were “Traveling Alone,” “Never Gonna Change,” “Different Days,” and “Speed Trap Town.” He played Drive-By Truckers songs, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit songs, and old and new solo songs. What we call Americana or roots is what used to be called country (and what I still think of when I think of country music) but Isbell’s band can rock out too. Isbell played a scorching guitar and frequently took solos out on the lip of the stage.

The first encore song was “Flagship,” a duet with his wife and a very pretty love song. And he ended with “Codeine,” which was one of several sing-a-longs.

I felt so lucky to be able to see Isbell and I am so happy to be part of a group that takes care of each other the way the Lucero Diehards do.

Here’s the entire setlist.

By Carene Lydia Lopez