Another summer, another Lyle Lovett appearance at WolfTrap. It’s usually one of the highlights of the year and one concert I never miss. I can almost hear the eye-rolling out in our readership – my experience in trying to convey my love for his work is often similar to what this writer describes. “Who? Isn’t he country? Yuck.” Then they put their Melissa Etheridge CD back on, to “rock out.”
For those of us who looked beyond LL’s country roots the rewards have been great. His stuff is often quirky & funny, sometimes heartbreaking(“Nobody knows me”) and compelling. Odds are that you’ve enjoyed a few of his songs without even realizing it – almost certainly you’ve heard his duet with Randy Newman from Toy Story, “You’ve Got a Friend In Me.” All that aside, even if you (*gasp*) were to decide you didn’t care for his work, I’d be astonished if anyone couldn’t enjoy seeing Lyle Lovett in concert.
Why? Because even aside from the variety in musical style that the night contains – from some swing-tinged to bluegrass to soulful crooning to gospel spiritual – a Lyle Lovett concert is almost as much a showcase of all the other performers on stage as it is a performance of LL’s music. At various points in the show you’re given the opportunity to enjoy the solo work of the fiddle, drums, steel guitar, piano, and bass. That’s not counting the amount of time given to his backup singers, particularly Francine Reed who does two songs on her own.
In addition to the amount of time most of the musicians get to shine on their own, the lineup from song to song can change drastically. Sometimes the entire 18 person ensemble is working at once, sometimes it’s just the trio pictured above. The show opened with just Lyle singing and Jeff White playing the mandolin. It’s abundantly clear that there’s not a person on that stage who isn’t excellent at what they do and it seems certain they’re all enjoying the hell out of themselves.
So were all of us out in the audience.
If you were at the show or already are a Lovett fan you might be interested in this excellent New Yorker article about Lyle Lovett that I came across while looking up how to spell a few of his band’s names. It’s a good read. If you’re reluctant but I’ve convinced you to give him a stab I recommend the older album “Lyle Lovett and His Large Band,” which contains “The Blues Walk,” the song that first hooked me on Lyle Lovett when I saw him perform it on Leno. “Pontiac” is also a good choice, which the crowd-favorite “If I had a boat” leading it off and followed immediately with the amusing “Give back my heart.”
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs