Live: Jason Isbell at Waterfront, Stockholm 2012.05.11
words by Johan Alm
As far as I know Jason Isbell hadn’t played in Sweden prior to last night’s opening slot for Ryan Adams. I’ve been a fan of Isbell since I first discovered him via his work with the Drive-By Truckers in 2008 and in my opinion he’s arguably one of the most underrated songwriters of his generation. So I’m a bit of fanboy. Having gotten that out of the way; my expectations were naturally extremely high as I was about to witness one of my favourite artists live for the first time – and Isbell didn’t disappoint.
The venue for the night was the newly opened, and very modern, conference centre Stockholm Waterfront, right in the centre of Stockholm, and when Isbell took the stage after eight the venue wasn’t near full capacity, but it filled up throughout the set. On record Isbell is usually backed by an excellent backing band, but in keeping with Ryan Adams’ acoustic set Isbell performed solo acoustic – and that translation doesn’t work for everyone. Isbell on the other hand turned out to be excellent.
In his all-too-short opening set Isbell’s main focus was on last year’s excellent Here We Rest; he opened the set with album closer “Tour of Duty” and closed with “Go It Alone”, with album standout “Alabama Pines” somewhere in the middle. As I, and I’m sure this goes for many other Isbell fans as well, first discovered him through his time with Drive-By Truckers it was a delight to hear him perform the classic “Goddamn Lonely Love” and his trademark tune “Outfit”, plus performing “The Magician” from his 2007 debut solo record. The two Drive-By Truckers songs fit very well with the rest of his material, showing how he always had his own unique voice – despite starting his career by joining an already established band.
The performance itself was excellent, and Isbell managed to command the large venue himself and by the end of his set the audience was convinced. Vocally Isbell was at his best and he seemed genuinely happy to be there as well as being charming and funny while chatting with the audience. In short in was a very good gig, and now I just hope he’ll return to Sweden soon and hopefully with a full band, as I’m sure that could work even better.