If you were to ask me what I know about Lyle Lovett, I would tell you he strikes me as an American original, with a genre-jumping style that incorporates country, blues, gospel, swing and bluegrass and layers a big band sound over it all.
I would tell you he seems to tour constantly and that he seems to be a genuinely nice guy, unpretentious and sincere.
After seeing him in concert this week, I can say all that is true.
Monday night was a perfect summer evening on the lawn at Edgefield. Our two low-back chairs were set up to the front and left of the stage. Next to me: a friend attending the outdoor concert venue for the first time. On stage: Lyle Lovett and His Large Band.
For 2 1/2 hours, Lovett and his band entertained a mellow crowd of Portlanders with an eclectic song list and a smooth sound that defies easy categorization but works, really works. Throw fellow vocalist, Francine Reed, into the mix and you’ve got a one-two punch that’s powerful and appealing.
No need to go on at length here, so I’ll share just a few thoughts:
Where’s the crowd? Attendance was light for some reason. There was plenty of room on the lawn and, most surprising, there were virtually no lines for food or beverages or even to get into the venue. Part of the Edgefield experience is queuing up, but I didn’t miss that at all. Why so few people? Maybe because it was a Monday? Whatever. Those who stayed home missed a very good concert.
Where’s our friends? Lori was just coming back Monday from a weekend trip to San Francisco and had earlier said she’d pass on this concert. I invited our mutual friend, Erin Payton, a charter member of the Broken Taco Shells bowling team, and she readily accepted, being a fan of Lyle’s music. Once we arrived, we looked for another Taco Shells alum, Brian Wartell, and immediately spotted him and his girlfriend, Alexandra, at a table in the shade. We got our drinks and had a pre-concert chat, then went our separate ways to our seats.
How big is the Large Band? By my count, 14 members. A four-piece horn section, two on guitar, one on upright bass (Viktor Krauss, brother of Alison), one each on pedal steel, piano, fiddle, cello and drums (Russ Kunkel, who’s played with Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and many others) plus vocalists Lyle and Francine.
How good is the Large Band? Very, very good. And versatile. They opened with a long instrumental that allowed each of them a brief solo — even the cellist — and at least three of them sang lead on one song or another. They shift easily from one style to another and their musicianship is first class. Oh, and they look oh-so-cool with their matching suits.
What about Lyle? He’s the real deal. Warm, engaging, humble, generous. Whether he’s singing a ballad, stepping aside to let Francine or someone take the lead, or chatting between songs, he makes you feel as if he’s invited you into his living room.
At one point, he asked a fellow Texan, now living in Portland, to join him for a bluesy song where he played harmonica. Check him out: Rich Layton & The Troublemakers.
Which songs did he play? I don’t know all his material, but I do know his playlist included: Here I Am, Church, Don’t Touch My Hat, If I Had a Boat, That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas), She’s No Lady, What Do You Do (see below) and Wild Women Don’t Get The Blues (featuring Francine, of course).
Where can you see him? He’s on tour all the rest of this year. (Dates are here.) He performs every year in the Northwest and Portland is a regular stop. If you haven’t seen him, make plans to see him in 2016.
He’s a class act.