On Friday, March 1, Oscar Isaac (Star Wars, Ex Machina) performed at the Appel Room in New York City. I had the pleasure of attending this intimate event, which truly felt like a once in a lifetime experience.
Isaac’s performance was part of the Lincoln Center’s American Songbook, a concert series that has been held since 1998 and hosts a multitude of talented and diverse artists. This year’s season opened at the end of January and came to a close at the beginning of March.
For those that were previously unaware, Isaac is not just an incredible actor—he is also a very talented musician. In his younger years, he was in a variety of ska bands, one being The Blinking Underdogs. Later, he and a friend formed the alternative/indie rock duo NightLab.
Isaac has also produced musical numbers for a handful of movies that he has acted in, most notably the critically acclaimed Inside Llewyn Davis. Others include: Sucker Punch, 10 Years, Won’t Back Down, and Mojave.
As a busy Hollywood star, seeing Isaac perform live music is a rare and special occurrence. I was incredibly lucky to obtain tickets to the event, as they did not last very long after they went on sale. The venue, The Appel Room, is a small but gorgeous space with an unbelievable view, and I could not think of a better place for this concert to have been held at.
Photography was strictly prohibited during the performance, so readers—prepare to use your imagination to visualize Isaac seated on stage with an acoustic guitar, surrounded by a captivated, low-key audience. He was joined by a variety of performers throughout, including: Gaby Moreno, Jerry Bernhardt on keys, Brian Betancourt on bass, Dominic Billett on drums, and Sam Cohen on guitar.
Isaac opened up his set with two songs that he had performed for Inside Llewyn Davis. When he began to pick the first notes of “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me”, the emotion in the room was palpable as the reality set in for myself and my fellow attendees that, “Yes, this is really happening right now.” I will admit that I was immediately reduced to tears before the first song had barely begun, but I can also assure you that those sitting around me were frantically reaching for tissues as well.
The set list consisted of 15 songs in total:
1. “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” – solo
2. “The Death of Queen Jane” – solo
3. “The Future (Present Pain)” – with band
4. “The Measure of Things” – with band
5. “Switchable City” – with band
6. “Devotion” – with band
7. “Luna de Xelajú” (by Paco Pérez) – with Gaby
8. “Cucurrucucú paloma” (by Tomás Méndez) – with Gaby
9. “Flesh” – with Gaby and band
10. “Regret” – with Gaby and band
11. “Headaches” – with Gaby and band
12. “Home (The Crows)” – with band
13. “Morning Time” – with Gaby and band
14. “Green, Green Rocky Road” – with keyboard
15. “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” – with Gaby and band
It was an absolute pleasure to experience a variety of songs that I knew very well, and other pieces that I had not yet heard before. During the concert, Isaac commented that it was his first time playing many of his original songs live (but it certainly did not show, as he, Moreno, and the band performed almost flawlessly.)
As the final song came to an end, the audience stood and clapped long and enthusiastically as Isaac and the other performers exited the stage. Excited conversation bubbled up amongst attendees as they filed out of the room, and it was clear that the audience had been blown away. Overall, I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to experience Oscar Isaac’s remarkable musical talents in person and sincerely hope to do so again in the future.