Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at The Salt Shed in Chicago, IL

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit provided Chicago’s newest music venue with two nights of entertainment to mark the end of summer. 

If ever you need a reminder you’re in Chicago, try going to an outdoor show from mid-September onward. You really never know if you’ll need to wear shorts or a down jacket when you buy those tickets, but you always remain optimistic. The second night at the not even two-month-old venue was sold-out, and the weather it was definitely a little cooler than many had hoped it would be. But let’s face it, we’ve all stood outside for shows that have been colder than this one. No one cared about the cool temperatures, as they popped on their jackets for the first time since May, picked up a beer from the food trucks inside the venue, and took their places to enjoy a night of music from their favorite artist. 

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit began the night with three banging tunes – “What’ve I Done To Help,” “Hope The High Road,” and “Overseas.” If that didn’t blow off the cobwebs and warm up the crowd, nothing will. Each night at The Salt Shed saw a different setlist performed so anyone who attended both nights was sure in for a treat. Some of the key changes for night two were the inclusion of songs Jason penned with Driver-By Truckers’ “Outfit” and “Never Gonna Change,” along with “Traveling Alone,” and “Cumberland Gap,” all of which are always a treat to hear and are missed when not included in the setlist. 

This tour sees Sadler Vaden get to take the vocals for “Honeysuckle Blue” from his days with Drivin’ N’ Cryin’. The song was included on Isbell’s album Georgia Blue which was the charity covers album he released when Joe Biden’s Democrats won Georgia during the 2020 presidential election. The chemistry between Vaden and Isbell is a treat to see on stage. Fans get to see not one, but two highly talented guitarists who take turns in taking the lead but also have fun trading licks. 

You’ll often hear us talk about particular songwriters being true poets, and Isbell is one such person. If you can honestly listen to the lyrics of “We Were Vampires” and not at least get a lump in your throat, you’ve got to be dead inside. The beautiful lyrics of “Cover Me Up” conjure vivid imagery of a house with a roaring fire, and boots at the foot of the bed. There is something very special about seeing this song performed live which never gets old, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it and, trust us, we’ve seen it a lot! The stage empties except for Jason and his trusty acoustic guitar. One by one, the members of the 400 Unit slowly return to the stage under the cover of darkness, and as the drums build to the crescendo, they all come in together. Such a beautiful song, which always gets the appreciation from the audience that it deserves. 

The evening was rounded out with “Speed Trap Town” and a cover they often perform during their shows and again is always appreciated, Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well.” It was a great way to end such a fun night and a perfect start to the weekend ahead.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit have a few more dates before heading to Isbell’s festival, Shoals Fest, next weekend shortly followed by their annual residency at The Ryman in Nashville. Be sure to check back for full coverage of this year’s Shoals Fest. 

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About Kirstine Walton 386 Articles
Kirstine moved from the UK to Chicago in 2011, and has fallen in love with the city and its music scene. She enjoys combining her two biggest passions – music and photography. If there is a band with a guitar playing, chances are she’ll be there…camera in hand. Kirstine went to her first live concert at 7 years old, and hasn’t looked back since!