Coverage: Jason Isbell brings his family out for a rockin’ night in Vail
After performing a sold-out show at Red Rocks Amphitheater on Tuesday, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, along with Isbell’s wife Amanda Shires, made the journey up to the Vail Valley to perform at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Isbell gave a shout-out to the crowd reminding them to take in the beauty of the area. “Have y’all looked around at this beautiful place? It sure is pretty here, be sure to look around,” Isbell said.
There were hard-core concert-goers sitting out the lawn under a starry sky on this crisp, clear, late summer evening. The show marked the last in the Whistle Pig Vail concert series for the season. Isbell, his wife and a couple of band members opened the show wearing Canadian tuxedos: denim jackets and jeans.
Later, Isbell pointed out that his wife’s jacket was retrofitted with duct tape lining and pockets to hold hand warmers – much like we use for snow sports to stay warm in the winter. By the end of the show, Shires was visibly chilly, but she kept her voice and violin in tune the entire time.
One of the highlights of the evening was when Shires emerged on stage during a song carrying her 4-year-old daughter wearing noise-canceling headphones. The girl flashed a huge smile as her mother sashayed her across the stage while her dad played with the band. It was apparent that they were all taking in the ambiance and magic of the night.
The most recognizable song was “Maybe It’s Time” that Isbell wrote for Bradley Cooper’s 2018 remake of “A Star is Born,” starring Cooper and Lady Gaga. I bet many were picturing Cooper and Lady Gaga up on stage gazing into each other’s eyes. There was quite a sing-along for that performance. A young woman from South Carolina sitting next to me knew the words to every one of Isbell’s songs and sang in harmony with him the whole night.
Isbell threw a guitar pick to the ground. I was at the front, so of course, I scooped it up. But then, I intuitively turned around and gifted it to the young woman who had been serenading me all evening to Isbell’s tunes. She looked at me in disbelief and graciously received the gift. One minute later a gentleman approached us and said, “May I buy that guitar pick off of you for $100?” The woman looked at him in the eyes and politely declined. She had been at Red Rocks the night before, amongst the huge, sold-out crowd and I could tell she was so grateful to be there in a smaller venue just feet away from Isbell, Shires and the band members.
That pick had strummed many guitars that evening as Isbell rotated between his selection. Some of the fan favorite music undeniably came from the recognizable reverberation and magnetic sound of the Gibson Les Paul guitar. But that’s not the only recognizable guitar Isbell has: he owns Ed King’s famous guitar.
That guitar was once stolen from the “Sweet Home Alabama” co-writer at gunpoint and was later returned to the Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist, its rightful owner. After King’s passing, the 1959 Les Paul ended up in the care of Nashville’s famous Carter Vintage Guitars. Isbell played it and was blown away.
“Don’t think that I have ever played a finer electric guitar than this one. It haunts me now,” he said after the experience. A few days later, King’s Les Paul would be his.
“It’s the finest electric guitar I’ve ever played or heard, and it will be heard again, not locked away forever in a vault. I’m infinitely grateful to the late Ed King and his family, and I’ll treat the guitar and his legacy with care,” the King of Americana, Jason Isbell said.