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Review: ‘An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt’ at Strathmore

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There are very few things that could get me to uproot and move to Texas. Actually, there is just one thing, and his name is Lyle Lovett.

Luckily, this long tall Texan graced the stage of Maryland’s Strathmore this weekend with John Hiatt for a stripped down, turned on performance of some of their most beloved songs.

It was a concert that rambled on like a slow, Southern afternoon. No flash, no glitz, just two guys and their guitars. Two seasoned, unhurried men whose wild years are behind them. Two masters at encapsulating vivid stories in three-minute songs.

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt. Photo courtesy of Strathmore.

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt have been performing together for a few decades now. Their show is a pleasant combination of acoustic versions of their songs intermingled with witty storytelling. At times the show felt like a mutual appreciation society as each man was quick with compliments for the other. Each player watched appreciatively as the other played, only occasionally collaborating on a song together.

Hiatt started off, bringing his unique, gravelly voice to the popular “Drive South” before it was Lovett’s turn. Lovett elicited applause from the opening chords of “North Dakota.”

“I hadn’t planned to open with that tonight until I heard you play ‘Drive South,’” Lovett told Hiatt after finishing the song. “Well, we’ve always been aimless,” Hiatt replied, “aimless with good intentions.” “Yeah, we should put that on a tee-shirt!” Lovett quipped.

Hiatt’s songs were characterized by his gravelly voice and pulsating blues rhythms on guitar. He often played a throbbing percussion line under the vocals which lent a sense of urgency to songs like “Detroit Made” and “Tennessee Plates.”

Hiatt played “Crossing Muddy Waters” and “Blues Can’t Even Find Me,” songs that hold emotions under a microscope and give them a good long ponder. There is something very Dylanesque about Hiatt’s lyrics, evoking the wandering spirit of the American singer-songwriter. Take this verse from Hiatt’s second offering of the night, “Adios to California:”

Pasadena in the rain
Eatin’ donuts and readin’ Twain
How much longer can my brain
Set itself on fire?

Of course, by this point in the evening, it was clear that Hiatt was the straight man and Lovett the comedian so when Lovett complimented Hiatt on incorporating a Mark Twain reference into his lyrics, it was no surprise that Lovett sited You and Your Cat as his own favorite book.

Where Hiatt’s songs are grounded, Lovett’s are soaring, lyrical, and sometimes really darned funny. Lovett treated us to “Fiona” ”She’s No Lady, She’s My Wife,” and “Her First Mistake,” songs that paint vivid pictures of romance with an undercurrent of humor.

Lovett played several of what I’ll call his “sentimental hits” as well – “Simple Song,” “If I Had a Boat,” and “Understand You” – songs that make your heart feel like it’s having a good long cry deep in your chest.

Just because I love it so much, take a look at this verse from “Simple Song:”

So hear my words with faith and passion
For what I say to you is true
And when you find the one you might become
Remember part of me is you

I mean, really! I challenge you to hear these songs and not shed at least one tear!

After entertaining us for two-and-a-half solid hours (remember, these guys are both 60+), both men came back onstage for an encore of “Have a Little Faith in Me” (Hiatt) and “My Baby Don’t Tolerate” (Lovett).

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt are two of the most talented singer-songwriters in America. Their acoustic show offers a great chance to focus on the beauty of their songs and learn a bit about the personalities behind the music. Check it out if you get the chance!

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with no intermission.

‘An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt’ took place on January 19th, 2017 at the Music Center at Strathmore – 5301 Tuckerman Lane in North Bethesda, MD. For tickets to other Strathmore performances, call (301) 581-5100 or go online.

Set List: (The show alternated between songs by Hiatt and Lovett. I’ve separated the songs by artist here for clarity’s sake)

John Hiatt
“Drive South” (Slow Turning, 1988)
“Adios to California” (Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns, 2011)
“Detroit Made” (Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Dreams Hymns, 2011)
“Thing Called Love” (Bring the Family, 1987)
“Hide Your Tears” (unrecorded song)
“Memphis in the Meantime” (Bring the Family, 1987)
“Blues Can’t Even Find Me” (Mystic Pinball)
“Perfectly Good Guitar” (Perfectly Good Guitar, 1993)
“Tennessee Plates” (Slow Turning, 1988)
“Long Time Comin’” (Terms of My Surrender 2014)
“Crossing Muddy Waters” (Crossing Muddy Waters, 2000)
Encore
“Have a Little Faith in Me” (Bring the Family, 1987)

Lyle Lovett
“North Dakota” (Joshua Judges Ruth, 1992)
“I’ve Been to Memphis” (Joshua Judges Ruth, 1992)
“White Boy Lost in the Blues” by Michael Franks (Release Me, 2011 written by Michael Franks)
“Understand You” (Release Me, 2011 written by Eric Taylor)
“Her First Mistake” (The Road to Ensenada, 1996)
“Step Inside This House” (Step Inside This House,1998, written by Guy Clark)
“She’s No Lady, She’s My Wife” (Pontiac, 1988)
“Up In Indiana” (It’s Not Big It’s Large, 2007)
“One Eyed Fiona (The Road to Ensenada, 1996)
“If I Had a Boat” (Pontiac 1988)
“Simple Song” (Pontiac 1988)
Encore
“My Baby Don’t Tolerate” (My Baby Don’t Tolerate, 2003)

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