Review: Jason Isbell at Music Under the Canopy

Review: Jason Isbell at Music Under the Canopy

Americana fans got to experience the city’s newest music venue last weekend with the opening of the Canopy at Brenton Skating Plaza during the first Music Under the Canopy. The festival included performances by The Jayhawks, John Hiatt and Sunday night’s headliner, Jason Isbell.

There were overcast skies throughout the weekend, but Sunday evening was the only time rain actually fell, with a light sprinkling prior to Isbell’s set. But it was dry under the canopy. Overnight rains caused no problems for the plaza’s drainage system, with the floor staying dry.

Estimated attendance over the weekend was 900 on Friday, 700 on Saturday and 900 on Sunday.

Isbell’s star has risen over the last few years, thanks to critically acclaimed albums like “Southeastern” and “Here We Rest” and a six year stint with the famed Drive-By Truckers. Isbell’s set included a mix of his solo material and selected DBT hits.

Isbell kicked off his set with “Flying Over Water” and “Stockholm” off “Southeastern,” after which he told the crowd “I can tell this is gonna be a good time already” before moving on to the more somber “Tour of Duty.” From there he continued with the military theme with “Dress Blue” and Drive-By Truckers’ “Decoration Day.”

By about 7:30 p.m. the sun was lowering in the west, shining in the eyes of the crowd facing the stage at the north end of the skating plaza. By 8:30 p.m. it had sunk behind Wells Fargo Arena.

“Sorry if you saw ‘Americana’ on the sign and came and we played a bunch of rock and roll songs,” Isbell told the crowd before adding: “I’m not sorry.”

Did Jason Isbell just “Sorry, Not Sorry” the crowd?

RELATED: Jason Isbell to open for Willie Nelson at Stir Cove

The night was heavy with material off “Southeastern,” with Isbell telling the crowd that any parent’s favorite kid is their most recent. He followed that statement with performances of “Different Days” and “Live Oak.”

Sound by the stage was crystal clear, and it wasn’t difficult to have a good view of the band. As you moved to the back of the canopy, the sound got a bit more muddled. Perhaps the sound was traveling to the peak of the canopy and bouncing back down. Since nearly everyone was gathered at the front of the space, it’s probably a minor quibble. Especially since the space and canopy were not designed for sound purposes.

The crowd sang along to “Cover Me Up,” and not long after everyone but Isbell and his keyboardist left the stage for the somber “Elephant.” From there things livened back up when the band returned for the Drive-By Truckers number “Never Gonna Change.”

The band played “Heart on a String” before leaving the stage, returning moments later for an encore that included DBT’s “Danko/Manuel” and a cover of the Rolling Stone’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” before closing out the show with his own “Super 8.”

Isbell gripped the crowd from start to finish of his two hour set, a fitting finale for the city’s newest music venue. Isbell has clearly earned his headliner status and the Canopy seems to have won over local music fans.

About the Author

Joe Lawler covers music and more for Juice Magazine. E-mail him at or follow his updates on Twitter @JoeLawler

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