Lyle Lovett

The ranting of rabid fangirl

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Given my known proclivity for certain types of bands (rock ’n’ roll, loud), one could probably make an assumption or two about what band or musician I’ve seen in concert most often.

You probably would not guess that musician is country singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett. I know. It kind of surprises me too.

The first time I encountered Lovett, it was completely by accident. I was in high school and he was touring with his Large Band. One of his tour stops was in Seattle for a Summer Nights on the Pier concert, and I just happened to be wandering the waterfront with some friends. We stopped to watch Lovett in action (back when bellying up to the fenceline at Piers 62 and 63 still netted a person a pretty good vantage point), and I was transfixed by the way such a seemingly unassuming man could command both audience and the appropriately named Large Band with such seeming ease. I was enthralled by his songs, his stories and, most of all, his easy manner.

It’s safe to say I’ve been mesmerized ever since.

Through the years, I’ve seen Lovett in many of his different incarnations. With the aforementioned Large Band, with smaller versions of that band, with entirely different bands, sharing the stage with his songwriting contemporaries—the list goes on. Once, I saw Lovett play a smallish show with just his longtime cellist (and onstage comedic foil) John Hagen and it remains near the top of the list of the best live performances I’ve ever seen.

If you’ve never experienced the spell Lovett is capable of casting, you might be tempted to dismiss what I’m saying as the ranting of a rabid fangirl. After all, the lanky guy with the guitar and the crooked grin doesn’t fit the traditional mold of your average dreamy musician dude.

But Lovett’s definitely got some things going for him.

First, of course, is his music. Over the course of more than a dozen albums (which have netted him four Grammys—not that anyone is counting), Lovett has proven himself to be a singular songwriter, a man who pays homage to those who have inspired him while writing songs that are wholly his own. A song by Lovett doesn’t sound like a song written by anyone else, even though his bread and butter, musically speaking, is to populate his songs with people we can relate to and situations we know. As well, he has a knack for using small moments to convey big feelings, having figured out that in music, as in life, it’s the daily details and not the intense dramas that make up the weight of our experience.

But Lovett is in more than just his musical element onstage. With his deadpan demeanor and penchant for self-deprecating humor, he can be easy to underestimate. But make no mistake: Lovett is a charismatic fellow. He can spin a story, tell a joke and has an enviable ability to make everyone in the audience feel like even if they hadn’t paid a decent sum of money for the privilege, he’d probably still hang out with them. The fact that he plays a Townes Van Zandt song at nearly every show is just gravy.

When he makes a return visit to the Mount Baker Theatre on Sun., Nov. 24, he won’t be alone. Sharing the stage with him will be friend and fellow songwriter John Hiatt, and it will be far from the first time the two have performed together.

There’s a select cadre of songwriters who can hold their own with the likes of Lovett and Hiatt is most definitely one of them. While Lovett was busy winning Grammys, the musically versatile and creatively curious Hiatt was writing songs that have been covered by a whole host of people—most of whom know a thing or two about how to write a pretty decent song themselves. I’m talking about such musicians as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Iggy Pop, Emmylou Harris, Nick Lowe—the list is as impressive as it is exhaustive.

Together, Hiatt and Lovett provide an entertainment experience that is not easily matched. Both boast deep and varied discographies, both are nimble performers who are used to playing—and playing off of—each other. As well, Lovett won’t be the only one on the Baker’s stage with a wicked sense of humor, so expect the between-song banter to be as entertaining as the music itself.

Given the frequency with which Lovett visits Bellingham—and the tendency of his shows to sell out—I’m clearly not the only one taken with his charms. I’m guessing a few of you probably have some Lyle Lovett notches in your concert belt. That’s all right by me, there’s more than enough of him to go around.

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