Concert Review - Father John Misty and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - White Oak Music Hall, Houston, TX
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
A light rain had turned the grass lawn damp as hundreds eagerly came and filled up the merch line, the food lines, and most of all the alcohol lines. Luckily, the rain stayed away for the show. Opener Erin Rae played a short set for the crowd who was enthusiastic for her music. Her set mostly consisted of slower, folk-styled music. Around the conclusion of her set, the crowd had started to pour in. As anticipation built for Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, they finally emerged and hit the audience hard with a fantastic rendition of "Hope the High Road." This had me hooked instantly as it's my favorite song from the band. Jason Isbell has a way of engaging with the crowd, especially this Houston crowd, whom he had eating out of the palm of his hand. There was perhaps no greater round of cheers than when he introduced his wife, Amanda Shires, on the violin. This was expected as she's a Texas native and if there's one thing Texans love, it's one of their own.
One thing that stood out to me as the band played was how much of an underrated guitarist Jason Isbell is on the national stage. I've never seen him on national lists for his guitar prowess; however, he played some absolutely devastating solos throughout his set, taking turns with fellow guitarist Sadler Vaden (who's talented in his own right). Another standout in Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit's set was the outstanding vocals. Virtually every member of the band does backing vocals. Collectively, when the 400 Unit sings in unison, they create a wall of sound that is simply incomparable. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit is an alt-country act, but their show had a slight southern rock edge to it, which seemed to suit the crowd just fine. They closed out their set with a beautiful performance of their smash "If We Were Vampires." In short, I'd highly recommend catching them.
Rating - 5/5
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Setlist
Hope The High Road
White Man's World
Last of My Kind
Flying Over Water
Maybe It's Time
Cover Me Up
If We Were Vampires
As the sun faded, up next came Father John Misty. His setup included a large backing band with a horn section. They opened with "Hangout at the Gallows," which had the crowd floored. By this point, the lawn had turned to a mud pit from the hundreds of feet that stepped on it while it was wet. So during both Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit's set and Father John Misty's set, there was a second past time of watching people bust their asses by slipping in the mud. As I'm sure you can imagine, this got worse as the night went on (and the alcohol flowed). Anyway, back to Father John Misty, he played almost everything you would want him to play and he played it perfectly. He carelessly danced throughout every song wielding his microphone stand like it was a weapon or a baton, I'm not quite sure.
He also engaged with the audience by asking us to forgive him for "dressing like a jet-ski salesman." He later quipped, "you know what? F*ck it, I like the way I look." He also discussed how he wanted to connect with us, but "that it was difficult as an 'I.'" He said many a great many things to us that had us laughing as his wit was on full blast. One thing that surprised me was how tight Father John Misty's vocals were. He hit all of his notes including those where he utilized falsetto. He never tried to go down an octave (as many artists do) to evade difficult studio-only vocal performances. Throughout the night he'd switch between playing his acoustic guitar (that was setup with a pickup) to allowing his band to perform the rhythm while he danced about. Regardless of whatever path he chose, it was abundantly clear that Father John Misty is not just an artist, he's an entertainer and brings a presence to the stage that not many other musicians can. He had been closing out his sets with "I Love You, Honeybear" on this tour. He faked our audience out by telling us that "this is it" before having the lights go down for a few moments before the opening melody of "Date Night" hit. He left it all out there on his performance of this track, stretching his vocals in screams and hitting his falsetto. It was an absolutely crazy performance and the audience loved every second of it.
Rating - 5/5
Father John Misty Setlist
Hangout at the Gallows
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All
When You're Smiling and Astride Me
Nancy From Now On
Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
Total Entertainment Forever
Ballad of the Dying Man
Only Son of the Ladiesman
I'm Writing a Novel
Please Don't Die
I Love You, Honeybear