CONCERT REVIEW: Jason Isbell at the Salt Shed

  • Post Author
    by Music director
  • Post Date
    Sun Mar 31 2024

By: Alex Gershman

Jason Isbell, once referred to by John Mayer as “the best lyric writer of my generation,” was back by popular demand, performing at Chicago's Salt Shed for the second time in two years. I was lucky enough to see him on March 1, his second night of back-to-back shows there. If you know me at all, you know Jason Isbell is my favorite artist, so this review might be slightly biased, but I thought the show was absolutely incredible. 

For starters, the Salt Shed is a fantastic place to see a show. Originally owned by Morton Salt, the space was morphed into a concert venue after the business' relocation. However, being a Chicago landmark, the massive Morton Salt sign is still visible on the outside. During the summer they have a great outdoor venue, though this was indoors of course, given the cold weather. The venue was still incredible, the best part being the light show, headed by lasers that changed colors and shapes depending on the song.

Isbell, widely considered an americana artist, can best be described as a rock n' roll performer with his band, The 400 Unit. Not only is he one of the best songwriters alive, he is also a ridiculously good guitarist – a highly rare combination – which becomes apparent as he trades solos with Sadler Vaden, one of the best guitarists alive. Isbell mixes fast and loud songs like “It Gets Easier,” about his decade of sobriety, with slower, softer music, such as “Strawberry Woman,” a song about nostalgia in a relationship, accompanied by a slow and smooth accordion. 

The show's setlist was a mix of widely recognized hits – “Cover Me Up” – as well as songs played far less often, like “Different Days.” His songwriting excellence was on full display with lines like “I don't think on why I'm here or where it hurts, I'm just lucky to have the work” and “home was a dream, one that I'd never seen till you came along.” The concert was interrupted twice for medical emergencies, uncommon at Isbell shows (at least the ones I've been to), but he handled it well, keeping the audience calm and letting the medics sort things out. He also cracked several jokes throughout the performance, which is one of my favorite aspects of seeing him live. Overall, the experience was highly enjoyable and I would recommend an Isbell show to lovers of any genre of music. You won't regret it.