Gregory Alan Isakov – September 21st – Chautauqua Auditorium

Photos by Ty Hyten

The Scene:  The grounds of the historic Chautauqua Auditorium were abuzz with conversation, microbrews, and laughter this past Friday night. The old dark barn of an auditorium gradually filled with rolled blue jeans, flannels, and the last summer dresses of the season.  It seemed like everyone came with a group of friends, or ran into people they knew, as folks gave out hugs and warm greetings throughout the beginning of the night. I like to think of Gregory Alan Isakov as just another one of the amazing things we have as Colorado residents, and the sold out room of animated fans could back me up.

Opener: Jeffrey Foucault.  As Jeffrey Foucault came out, the room darkened to its unique blackest of black.  Wearing a wide brimmed hat and vintage Gibson acoustic Foucault moaned subtle Country-tinged Folk songs to the attentive audience.  He sounded really great, but I couldn’t help but miss the steel guitar and drums from his most recent album, Horse Latitudes.  I will definitely continue spinning his music and will definitely be seeing him on his next pass through the Front Range.

Gregory Alan Isakov:  The modest and soft-spoken Isakov walked out onto the dimly lit stage which was filled from edge to edge with all the equipment and instruments needed to accompany his storytelling . He was followed by a gang of familiar faces including Jeb Bows on Violin, Philip Parker on C, James Han on Piano, Jen Gilleran on Drums, and Ramaya Soskin on Guitar.  They began the set with one of the six new and/or unreleased songs the featured throughout the night.  Isakov mentioned that he was recording a new album in Nederland was it sounds like the release is right around the corner.  I’m very excited to get a hard copy of what I heard to say the least. The new songs were right in the same vein as his previous two albums and I’ve got admit it’s one I’m glad he isn’t leaving.

The sound was dead-on through out the night, as Isakov and his band moved through favorites including “Big Black Car,” “Virginia May,” and “That Moon Song.”  At one point he joked that when he heard the show had sold-out he assumed his Dad purchased all the tickets.  Through the set the music remained very mellow, but well orchestrated, with Ramaya nailing the sad cry of a pedal steel with just a Telecaster and a volume pedal, as Parker’s cello breathed a warm pulse into the songs.

The band truly lit up for the first time when they got to the title track of one of the best albums I’ve ever heard, This Empty Northern Hemisphere.  It’s hard to match the expansive sound of the track on the record but the band did a pretty damn good job driven by the always fantastic Jen Gilleran on drums and the perfect melodic accent of Bows’ violin.  After he showered us with masterpieces like “The Universe,” the encore arrived like an unwanted last call.  Fourteen songs lead up to it but I was still sad to see the show winding down. Isakov ended the night with an unreleased song followed by one the best takes of “Salt And The Sea” I’ve heard him play.

This marks what had to have been somewhere in the neighborhood of my twelfth time seeing Gregory Alan Isakov, and I was left just as pleased as ever.  The low whine of his voice through a repurposed harmonica mic can set a scene like nothing else. The venue, the band, and the sound made for a great show from one of the best things to come out of Colorado since Dale’s Pale Ale, just a shame we have to share him with the rest of the world.

Energy: B+
Musicianship: A
Sound: A
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: C

Overall: A