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Taping recap: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit

“We’re just overjoyed to be back on Austin City Limits!” said Jason Isbell as he led his band the 400 Unit to their third appearance on the ACL stage. With the acclaimed documentary Running With Our Eyes Closed on Max and his even more loudly hailed new album Weathervanes in the cultural conversation, Isbell is hitting a career high, which makes it the perfect time to host him once again. The new record is filled with expertly crafted, passionately performed songs featuring characters facing hard times, and that’s what the songwriter and the group presented tonight. With every lyric thoughtfully considered and every tune an ear worm, the setlist abounded with future anthems, from the anxiety-ridden “Save the World” (in which the protagonist contemplates raising a child in a world of common school shootings) and the acoustic “Cast Iron Skillet” to the tension-filled “Death Wish” and the rackety opener “When We Were Close,” an ode to a fallen musical comrade. Isbell reached into his bag of deep cuts with the loping anthem “Overseas,” from the 2021 album Reunions, but kept the set Weathervanes-centric – a choice that suited the polished but powerful rock & roll machine the Unit has become. Thanks to the bandleader’s chemistry with guitarist Sadler Vaden, bassist Anna Butterss, keyboardist Denny deBorja, and drummers Chad Gamble and Will Johnson (who last appeared on ACL with Monsters of Folk), “King of Oklahoma” roared, “Miles” blazed, and the Southern rock-frosted “This Ain’t It” burned the way only two dueling guitars can do it. The main set climaxed with a dip into the songwriter’s breakthrough Southeastern via “Flying Over Water,” to mighty applause, before returning for a two-song salvo of certified Isbell classics: the fan-favorite “24 Frames” and the soulful “Cover Me Up.” The audience loved every single second. “This is a good time – I sure do love doing this show!” the artist declared. Right back atcha, Jason, right back atcha.

Jason Isbell – vocals, guitars

Sadler Vaden – guitars, vocals

Denny deBorja – keyboards, accordion, vocals

Anna Butterss – bass, vocals

Chad Gamble – drums, vocals

Will Johnson – guitar, drums, vocals


When We Were Close – Weathervanes

Save the World – Weathervanes

King of Oklahoma – Weathervanes

Strawberry Woman – Weathervanes

Middle of the Morning – Weathervanes

Overseas – Reunions

Cast Iron Skillet – Weathervanes

Death Wish – Weathervanes

This Ain’t It – Weathervanes

White Beretta – Weathervanes

Miles – Weathervanes

Flying Over Water – Southeastern


24 Frames – Something More Than Free

Cover Me Up – Southeastern