Saturday, February 05, 2011

Concert Review; Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt

Excellent evening of their greatest hits. Usually when artists come through on tour it's to promote a new disc, so it was a departure to have such established songsters provide the acoustic treat of their most prodigious hits from the past few decades.

I've seen Lyle Lovett several times before and he never disappoints. His quirky house rules require that nobody can enter or leave in the middle of a song, and he closes the bar after the music starts. I'll admit that I was taken aback the first time I saw him-- "Whaddya mean I can't get another beer!"-- but, you know, it does show a certain self-respect that he doesn't want everyone stumbling around screaming drunk epithets throughout the concert. Lovett is a clean and sober artist, and he demands reverence for his art. Nothing wrong with that. I can say that I knew every precious lyric of his set, which included "North Dakota", "My Fiona", "LA County" and others.

We're all familiar with John Hiatt's songs, but I didn't know that he was such a prolific writer of such genuine lyrics. "Thing Called Love", popularized by Bonnie Raitt, has a different feel when sung by Hiatt. His other biggies: "Drive South" and "Have a Little Faith in Me" were nothing short of outstanding in this setting. Surprising gems were "Lipstick Sunset", "Master of Disaster" and "Memphis in the Meantime." His skill with the guitar and war stories of the old days filled in the crevices. They played for a full two-and-a-half hours.

The structure of the concert was unique, with the two guys in chairs as if sitting in your living room. They would alternate playing their songs, occasionally accompanying the other with guitar or vocal harmony. Between songs they'd engage in friendly conversation, stories and memories, as if we were invited to their home (at $55 a ticket!). A mention should be made of the venue: the State Theatre. This old horse of a hundred year old theatre is top-notch, and I'm sure a major reason Lovett keeps coming back to Kalamazoo. The acoustics, seats and concessions are unmatched.

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