Let’s just say the Tuscaloosa Isbell concert on March 14 stole more than just the hearts of his long-time supporting fans. All the way from Jupiter’s rowdy front stage to the back corners of the bar, fans drowned country singer Jason Isbell’s band with a welcome of deafening applause, praying the show wouldn’t end too soon.

Before Isbell’s first song, he grinned easily and welcomed everyone.

“At least I know we’re all here for the same reason: we like to sing some sad music,” Isbell said, laughing as the crowd cheered.

Jason Isbell, formerly part of the band Drive-By Truckers and the 400-Unit, finished the show near midnight in a roar of whistles and applause after his final encore song. Isbell’s tour of his newest 2013 album ‘Southeastern’ featured soft styled music that brought both country and non-country music lovers together. Violinist, singer and band member Amanda Shires, also his recently married wife, opened the show with hit songs off her new album ‘Down Fell the Doves.’ She continued afterwards to play duets and violin for his popular ‘Southeastern’ songs.

There was no doubt based on accents that a large portion of the audience was born and raised in the good ‘ole South. The Isbell’s songs rang a familiar tune.

Now a reclaimed singer and song writer, Isbell released ‘Southeastern’ as his fourth self-released album last June. His set list bounced back and forth between some of his upbeat, country music to his more acoustic, tender songs. He played a little bit of everything for everyone, covering both old and new favorites, but with a majority of the songs off the new record.

Isbell’s lyrics proved to be more than just average country love songs, but instead something distinctive and raw that lingered with each song. His voice was reminiscent, effortless and uniting in a way that brought the hundreds of different people together in a chorus. A southern sense of “home” overtook audience members, some holding a beer, some holding a hand, but everyone “rising from the dirt” like in his song ‘Flying Over Water,’ singing about the grace and pain of the South.

“The best part for me was which songs live were my favorites of his. I thought I knew for sure what his best songs were going to be, but he really surprised me at the concert. I didn’t expect certain ones to be so amazing played live,” Max LeNeave, a University of Alabama sophomore, said.

With the wait line for tickets still out the door after an hour into the concert, a diverse audience crowded available space at Jupiter. The fans were exuberant, and even the reaction for Shires’ not so well-known songs was overwhelmingly positive. Many people heard her talent for the first time that night, and after seeing her live, some people now officially own her album.

There was no denying it, the concert’s aura was emotional and contagious.

Isbell proved to be master to a wide collection of carefully crafted lyrics. He sang each song loud and clear enough for everyone who didn’t already know the words to learn them quickly and sing along. Despite the nostalgic atmosphere aided by both Shire and Isbell’s lyrics, Shires’ quirky stories and southern infused drawl made everyone lighten up.

There was no denying the love floating around stage between Shires and Isbell. Their romantic mood spilled into the crowd and couples all over the room held hands. By the end of the concert, it must be admitted: he absolutely stole the audience’s heart, and by looking around, anyone could tell it wasn’t just a few people. Between his touching performance of ‘Elephant’ to his sweet duets with his wife, there was no denying the occasional tears from the crowd.

“For months now, Jason Isbell has just been an album cover with a voice behind it. But seeing him and his wife live…,” Bobby Lewis, a University of Alabama sophomore, said. “It’d be foolish to start talking about magic, but I’m so much more a part of the music just from hearing it live. When I listen now, there’s a lingering presence behind it all.”

Although Jupiter was stock-full with a loud and drunken crowd, it was no surprise since Jupiter is a student-friendly bar on the Strip. The biggest downside for this particular concert was the overly drunk people wandering around, but Isbell didn’t let it phase him. Although Jupiter usually books more upbeat bands and DJs, the change of pace with this soft styled music led to a positive reaction and a perfect date night opportunity. The range of ages who came together extended from college students to older adults, some even traveling from out of town.

Regardless of the drunk crowd, there was no missing the string of soft voices singing along to songs they’d listened to so many times before. All the fans were friendly, and his crowd-loving stories about the band members and his wife made everyone feel at home. Particularly when his hilarious sentiment got everyone singing to the lyrics “I’m better off sleeping in a county jail, I don’t want to die in a Super 8 Motel.” He and Shires felt like someone everyone grew up knowing.

People might question why all these people came for some sad music, but Isbell’s spot-on voice convinced everyone. His southern tinged drawl led the audience through his drunken nights and heartbroken days. Hundreds of people sang along to ‘Songs in the Shower,’ each person comforted, remembering similar days.

If anyone gets the chance to see Jason Isbell and his wife live, especially in a more crowd respectful setting, they definitely should not pass up the opportunity. The ticket was well worth the $22 and the loose atmosphere made for a solid night out. Especially to people hesitant about country music, Isbell isn’t an overly country band constantly singing about blue-eyed beauties and summer nights drinking beer in a truck. His music is a combination of careful acoustic and electric guitar paired with heartwarming songs.

The lyrics in ‘Southeastern’ are not the typical, one-meaning, red-neck lyrics of the average country song. It’s music styled so anyone can relate, especially if they grew up in the South.

Isbell performed a heart-heavy, beer raising concert for Jupiter that Friday night. He sang soft songs about heartache and raised some hell about the grace and chaos of living in the place most of us call home: the ‘Southeastern’ region.

Jason Isbell will be appearing again in Alabama beginning May 9, in Birmingham at the Alabama Theatre. Then on May 10, he will be in Huntsville at the Von Braun Center Concert Hall. On May 11, he will perform in Atlanta at the Shaky Knees Music Festival.

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