Country icon ends 2023 acoustic tour in DC area
A dapper and fully-suited Lyle Lovett took the stage at Birchmere in Alexandra, VA on Thursday night (Mar 9th) with is four-piece acoustic ensemble. It was the second of two sold out shows that closed out his winter tour.
The first thing immediately noticeable before a note is strummed is the precision and class with which Lovett operates. A semi-truck of gear accompanied Lovett, a rarity for an intimate venue. But its purpose is to allow Lovett’s team complete control over everything from the sound to the lighting. If the venue does not have something, Lovett’s crew can rig it.
The next thing one notices is the matching suits adorned by all on stage. It’s clear that stage image is as important to Lovett as the music itself.
Musically, the septet was immaculate. Lovett’s staccato voice pierced through the tight playing of his backing band. Each player had their moment to shine, starting with an instrumental offering as the second song of the night.
The stripped-down nature allowed the texture of each number to take center stage. There were the bluesy numbers (“Here I Am”) and the straight country barn-stompers (“Rolling Down the Road”). There was even a more adult-contemporary flavored number or too, such as show-opener “Are We Dancing?”
Lovett’s wry wit was on display as his deadpan delivery of stories about fellow music legends Jerry Garcia and Guy Clark had the crowd in stitches. He also took time in between songs to chat with audience and band members, his sincerity in doing so eliciting more giggles.
A special treat on this night were the songs, “Friend of the Devil” by Grateful Dead, a fan request from Lovett’s time shaking some hands before the show. After the aforementioned Guy Clark story, he played Townes Van Zandt’s “Lungs.”
Musically, that wit was present in “Pants is Overrated,” a jaunty post-COVID tune featured on Lovett’s latest LP, Twelfth of June, his first new album in a decade. Another funny tune, “Her Loving Man,” features a quirky turn of phrase centered on the word “No.”
Further evidencing what a class act Lyle Lovett is, the four-time Grammy winner introduced and effusively thanked every member of his behind-the-scenes crew. Additionally, invited is bus driver Denny Autry to play keyboard on two numbers.
It’s clear that Lovett is as much a fan of music as he is a prolific creator of it. Towards the end of the evening, he stopped the show to interview his pianist Jim Cox about Cox’s beginnings on the piano. Through this, the audience learned that Lyle Lovett is just one of many names that Cox has accompanied.
The Lyle Lovett Acoustic Band is a supergroup of sorts. In addition to Cox, there’s bassist Leland Sklar. He is also an icon in his own right, having played on many world-renowned records, including James Taylor’s hits.
Bluegrass luminary Jeff White—who has toured with Union Station, Vince Gill, and others—plays guitar in the group. He featured on “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down.”
Fiddler Luke Bulla offered the a cappella vocals on traditional “Temperance Reel,” another bluegrass number.
“I have the best seat in the house up here between these guys,” Lyle Lovett said while talking to his band. I disagree, because the rest of us were privileged to hear five people in perfect harmony.