REVIEW: Jason Isbell – Live At Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, FL

jason_isbell_-_cambridge_folk_festival_50th_anniversaryRuth Eckerd hall is an amazing venue in Tampa with many happy memories of great music, and last night did not disappoint again.

The support act in Josh Ritter was a great surprise and bonus. A little bit 1950s rockabilly that had the place rocking mixed with some beautiful ballads. Definitely new CDs for the collection.

Before even talking about the music from Jason I cannot overlook the very simple but totally inspiring stage set and lighting. There were three very simple images at the back of the stage of stained glass windows. Such was the clever replication that you really felt like you were in a church. When he played Speed Trap Town on his own, I swear the lights shining down on him were from heaven itself. I shed a tear as it was so beautiful and you could hear a pin drop in the audience. He got a well deserved standing ovation.

His lyrics are hard. And by that I mean they are the struggles of the common man, blue collar, grafters, the backbone of our society. You can relate to every song. I have to admit I didn’t know every song he played but made me hungry for more and the anticipation of getting to know new tracks. All this from the guy I was stubbornly adamant I wouldn’t like! What the hell do I know.

He had the venue rocking and everyone on their feet. This was the only time that you could secretly take photos as unfortunately the camera police were on duty and a certain someone got into trouble when the flash went off!! I did manage to video about 3 minutes towards the end of Jason’s amazing electric guitar playing. Boy he can tame a guitar. Can wait to share with y’all.

Jason Isbell will never be commercial. Thank goodness for that. The audience was there for him, for his lyrics, for his passion, for his Alabama roots and not because it is the latest “star” that we should listen to. My wish is that if he comes back to the UK, he brings the band with him and plays a full set. It would be Sturgill all over again. We need the same stage set and lighting.

For one of his three encore tracks he brought Josh Ritter back on to perform a fab track by John Prine, ‘Storm Windows’. Didn’t know the track but now want to go and see John Prine next year. I think it’s somebody I will like!

It was one of those gigs when you have to spend just 10 minutes in the car afterwards to come back down to earth. And so endeth the lesson on the memory that is Jason Isbell. To end as I started – sublime!

(Writer – Jayne Scoffin)