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Isbell shines

House of Blues, Anaheim, Cal., March 15, 2017

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Jason Isbell was in a jubilant mood shortly after taking the stage at the Anaheim House of Blues' recently relocated new location. Now situated in a shopping strip called the GardenWalk, yet still close to the Disney theme parks, Isbell later humorously noted how the area is so clean. He even referred to it as a "tiny Toronto.'"

Although Isbell and the 400 Unit's set list wasn't all that different from the last time these Southern boys came through town, the talented singer/songwriter's obvious enthusiasm was one welcome differing factor.

Whether he was reaching back for songs from his old band Drive-By Truckers, exemplified by the moving "Decoration Day," or examining the life of a former lover, as he did with "The Life You Chose," Isbell just appeared to be loving every minute on stage tonight.

Isbell received the most audience enthusiasm during his performance on the sexually-charged "Cover Me Up," which he dedicated to his wife Amanda Shires, who was way on the opposite coast and probably freezing cold, or so said Isbell.

It sometimes takes a full-length Isbell concert to fully realize the astounding breadth of the man's work. He opened with "Stockholm," chockfull of all its homesickness, and later performed the equally home-desiring "Alabama Pines." His set also included the maturity of "Different Days" and unique spin on theology of "24 Frames." It leaves your head spinning, just considering how much he's accomplished in a relatively short career - so far.

Isbell doesn't rock as hard as many other so called "country artists" do, but with his skilled electric guitar work he nevertheless rocks. He's not particularly country, stylistically, but his voice is always quite twangy, and his storytelling skills place him right within the heart and soul of what make country music great.

Isbell is always the consummate professional live. However, on this night, in this sparkling new venue, his fresh-sounding performance easily equaled - and just may have surpassed -- the building's new club shine.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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