With this tour, the buzz around Jason Isbell and his band has become a roar. They took the Arlington stage with the kind of authority only elite rock bands command, and they delivered 19 amazing songs, each live arrangement a revelation. Isbell’s voice filled the space easily, and he never sacrificed nuance and clarity for rawness or mere volume. The guitar interplay between Isbell and Sadler Vaden on extended versions of “Dreamsicle,” “Cover Me Up,” and “What Have I Done to Help” showed the great taste and originality of their work together. They improvised in sophisticated, rich conversations that took the audience to new musical places beyond the endless roads traveled by such key precursors as the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead.
Sadler Vaden tore the place up with a burning account of his Drivin’ N Cryin’ classic “Honeysuckle Blue.” Someone please book Vaden to return to Santa Barbara with his own group as soon as he is available.
Isbell can come back any time he wants, especially if he’s going to sing and play like this. He threw in a couple of covers that hit hard. R.E.M.’s “Driver 8” was a cool reminder of the group’s 2021 Biden-Harris victory lap benefit album Georgia Blue. The second encore, “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, was an even cooler reminder that our Santa Barbara neighbor, David Crosby, still plays a mean rhythm guitar, and can sing “how many more” so that people feel it in their hearts and souls. Congratulations to UCSB Arts & Lectures on this landmark concert.