Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (with Paul Shaffer), 12/10/11

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit with Special Guests
Birmingham, AL
December 10, 2011


It is moments like what happened at Jason Isbell‘s WorkPlay performance last week that can be career altering and game changing for a musician.

It all began as a charity effort, a benefit to support the Magic City’s  chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Jason Isbell, the Alabama native and former Drive-By Trucker — who departed from the band in 2007 — was billed to play at the venue. A little over a month earlier, he and his band, the 400 Unit, had made an appearance on David Letterman’s The Late Show in support of the band’s recent studio effort, Here We Rest, in the same manner as countless others have done over the years.

After ripping through “Codeine” (the album’s first single), Letterman thanked the guests of the evening and also elected to mention Isbell’s upcoming show at WorkPlay, most likely due to its charitable contribution. The credits rolled and that was it. Then it wasn’t.  Apparently, Isbell and Unit had left quite the impression on the folks at Worldwide Pants.

Though the show at the near 500 capacity venue was already sold-out, the billing changed as the event drew closer, reading “Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit with Special Guests.” Most expected players from the area, a sit-in or two, opening act Jon Black coming back out, etc. — standard fare for event with a billing of that type. Well, that is not what they got. Rather, they got an onstage guest, Paul Shaffer — who has recorded with artists including Diana Ross, Warren Zevon, Ronnie Wood and a litany of others, produced The Blues Brothers’ musical acts and maintained his gig with Letterman — and an offstage guest, David Letterman, who watched the show from the balcony.

Yep, it was a special night. From Isbell originals to the tunes that Shaffer guested on (including “Hey Pocky Way”), the night was one that its patrons won’t soon forget and Birminghamian Andi Rice was on the scene to capture images from the night in the brilliant way that he does.


Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Andi Rice