Lyle and his Large Band

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.”

5 Comments so far

  1. Kate D (unregistered) on August 26th, 2006 @ 10:52 am

    This was my first Lyle concert and it was terrific. Even the crazy #1 Fan in front of us couldn’t ruin the show with her constant clapping in 4/4 time, never mind the actual time signature of the song. Perhaps you heard her clapping during the purely SPOKEN part of “Here I Am.” After the first hour, the woman next to us said, “Maybe she’ll tire out.” Later on, one of the back-up singers started clapping directly at her, trying to lead her to the actual rhythm. Alas, she never found it.

  2. Don (unregistered) on August 26th, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

    I was torn between amused and annoyed by the dude who ruined the punchline in “The Blues Walk” (the actual name of that song, by the way) when the line, after all the “please, if it’s not too late….” is supposed to be “make it a….. CHEESEburger.” by screaming “Cheeseburger!” at the top of his lungs.

    Ah well, it was fun.

  3. suz (unregistered) on August 26th, 2006 @ 8:08 pm

    Every year I’m jealous when you get to see Lyle! He may NEVER come out to the west coast! I’ve turned a ton of people into fans :)

    p.s. If you are looking for fun songs to listen to I would suggest both the penguin and the bear songs (not sure the albums)

  4. Brian (unregistered) on August 27th, 2006 @ 1:20 am

    I have followed Lyle since he released “Large Band.” The man is remarkable. Each album has something that just amazes me with it’s poignant lyrics. I mean, every song on “Ensenada” is great.

    I saw him a month or so ago when he was in Phoenix. His band is nothing short of amazing. Here in PHX, we got the added treat of hearing Francine Reed sing with her sister, Margo (a wonderful jazz singer). Francine is from PHX, so it was special for her. Every musician he has is one of the best in the business. It is a concert that no one should ever miss.

  5. webjedi (unregistered) on August 27th, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

    Great concert… long time listener… first time LL concert goer… it surprised my wife when he wandered all over the map musically. I was pleasantly amused as he wandered over the musical landscape and came away satisified is a concert well listened to and seen.

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