As readers of this blog already know, I both enjoy going to concerts and to travel. Whenever there’s an opportunity to do both it’s even better. About a year ago my boyfriend and I saw a golden opportunity for me to visit Dublin for the first time as Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit re-announced their European Tour (postponed since 2020 due to Covid).
3Olympia Theatre is an old, very beautiful and well preserved theatre in the middle of Dublin. It’s decorated with red medallion wallpaper and a red ceiling with stuccos. The venue can host both fully seated theatre shows and concerts as they remove the seating from the Stalls area. The capacity for standing/partially seated shows, like the Isbell show, is approximately 1,600.
Providing a great start to the evening were His Lordship, with a fast and furious punk-era style rock ‘n’ roll. Singer Walbourne was brimming with energy. Drummer Sonne, with an almost cartonish act, gave his all and came down from his drumkit to sing Only Child in the most animated fashion.
The main act kicked off with What Have I Done to Help, from Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s latest studio release Reunions (2022), with most of the band singing the vocal harmonies. Isbell started the song on acoustic guitar, but as the arrangement stretched out, he switched to an electric guitar for a finishing slide solo.
The second song was Hope the High Road, which opened with big electric power chords from second guitarist Sadler Vaden, showing off his guitar skills. The chemistry and interplay between Vaden and Isbell was a treat to see on stage throughout the show. The audience got to see not one, but two highly talented guitarists who took turns in taking the lead but also had fun trading guitar licks. Vaden also got to take the vocals for one song, Honeysuckle Blue (from his days with Drivin’ N’ Cryin’), which was included on the album Georgia Blue, a charity covers album that was released by Isbell in 2021.
Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit are a tight rock act that takes the stage with a kind of authority only well established rock bands can, and they delivered 18 amazing songs. They have a large back catalogue of songs to dig into. Their songs were well known by the audience. This was reflected in the fact that much of the gig was played out as a big sing-a-long. Isbell’s voice was crisp and crystal clear and filled the space easily, some parts were almost like I was listening in my headphones. My favourite songs Last of My Kind, Elephant and If We Were Vampires were soulfully delivered. An astonishing rendition of Cover Me Up closed the main set.
So cover me up and know you’re enough
To use me for good
As the lights came up, the exit music that came on was Tom Petty’s Time to Move On. We left the venue with a smile.
- What’ve I Done to Help
- Hope the High Road
- 24 Frames
- Last of My Kind
- Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover)
- Only Children
- Alabama Pines
- Honeysuckle Blue (Drivin ‘n’ Crying cover) sung by Sadler Vaden
- If We were Vampires
- Speed Trap Town
- Flying Over Water
- Cover Me Up
- Tour of Duty
- Decoration Day