The night started off with Ellis setting a mellow and relaxing mood. His powerful vocals and five impressive band members wowed the buzzing crowd. He greeted the Madison crowd with nothing but appreciation.
“I’ve fallen in love with this city,” Ellis said before playing.
As Ellis and the band finished up, the anticipation in the air was palpable. The whole theater was packed with a mellow yet excited crowd. Isbell came on stage and began the night with a popular song from his new album, Southeastern, called “Flying Over Water.” Isbell’s clear, strong vocals rocked the theater. His voice had no trouble filling the massive space at the Barrymore. He is truly an amazing live artist.
Isbell also played “Decoration Day,” a song by Drive-By Truckers, a band he was a member of until 2007. The crowd instantly cheered upon recognizing the hit song. It included an incredible fiddle solo performed by Isbell’s wife, Amanda Shires, a member of the band. It was a beautiful touch to a great song and a definite crowd-pleaser.
Isbell was interactive with his crowd, as any good performer should be. Halfway through the show, he said, “I remember Madison now. It’s filled with weirdos. That’s why I like it so much. You guys are awesome.”
Band members even briefly sported a Wisconsin cheesehead, which the crowd undoubtedly loved and went crazy for. There’s nothing Wisconsinites like more than receiving recognition for our awesome cheese.
The Barrymore Theater’s ceiling is covered in twinkling lights, setting an outdoorsy, natural environment. This effect blended perfectly with Isbell’s cozy country performance. The twinkling ceiling lights gave off the illusion of being outside at a neighborhood barbeque, surrounded by family and friends — truly a great touch to Jason Isbell’s already outstanding performance.
The night continued with the melodious, sometimes somber tones of Isbell’s country songs until he switched his acoustic guitar for an electric one. The mood level instantly exploded with Isbell’s awesome rock vibes with his song “Elephant.” The audience was fully submerged in the ultimate country rock experience. Every band member was suddenly full out head banging, providing the feel of an arena rock show.
Isbell’s tour continues on as he endorses his newest album, Southeastern. Thankfully, a stop in Madison fit right in on the tour. The crowd could not get enough, with Isbell coming back for an encore. As an amazing live performer and major crowd pleaser, Isbell’s performance made for a great Friday night.