Last week, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a sold-out performance by Lyle Lovett and his Large Band at the same venue where I saw Bruce Hornsby, Béla Fleck, the Noisemakers, and the Flecktones earlier this month.
Lovett and his crew put on an excellent show from start to finish, and despite taking no set break and shifting personnel over the course of the night, Lovett himself was on the stage for the all but one song, during which he let his female backup singer take control of the band. Lovett’s Large Band is comprised of Lovett on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, four backup singers (one female, three male), four other guitar players (one pedal steel, two electrics, and one more acoustic), fiddle, mandolin (who was the second acoustic guitarist), cello, percussion, piano, and a prolific, veteran bass player. (HT: @jwg31 for a long-distance ID of Leyland Sklar. More photos here.)
I’ve seen this group before, in the same spot, a few years ago, and I had an enjoyable time then despite not knowing any of the singer-songwriter’s tunes. In the interim period, I’d picked up only a sparse smattering of his recorded sounds (primarily pilfered from my paternal unit), so I was especially pleased at the number of songs I recognized during this performance.
If Lovett is two things, he is a storyteller and a Texan, and the former in particular was on display this night. He deftly adjusted his personnel throughout the performance, beginning offstage while he let his full band work out for the crowd (an approach well-used by the best, like him and B.B. King), eventually stripping the band down to bass, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and one microphone for Texas-style bluegrass, and slowly building the band back up again, featuring different alignments and arrangements along the way.
Lovett interacted with his bandmates and the crowd with ease and tumbleweed-dry wit. He took care to introduce and shine the spotlight on his cohorts, and he conversed from the stage with a child he recognized in the audience from prior appearances at this venue (they’ve played it three consecutive summers).
I enjoyed this performance even more than the last one. Lovett showed why he is one of the best singer-songwriter-big(large)-bandleaders and, despite being “one ugly dude” (in the words of my father’s friend shortly before the show), a consummate and intimate showman. He also tricked a bunch of upper-Midwesterners into liking country music for a night, and for that alone he and his band earned the audience’s applause, of which there was plenty.
Click here for more photos of the night.