Genre-bending artist Lyle Lovett tore up the stage at the Filene Center with his Large Band. It feels like three bands in one – a country band heavy on guitar and fiddle, a blues band with a full horn section, with songs that unite them all for a sound reminiscent of the 20’s big band sound than anything recent. Most members have been playing with him for 20 years or more. As he looked out at the crowd at Wolf Trap, he said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” He called the Filene Center, the “Nation’s premier concert venue.”
They opened with “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues.” Longtime backup singer Francine Reed took the lead walking through the crowd to the stage singing.
He finally showed up for the third song and launched into his big hits and crowd favorites with his signature hilarious lyrics and beautiful guitar licks on “Church” and the spoken word “Here I am.” He called it his Seinfeld song – a song about nothing in particular. Even most of his ballads have a cheeky wit, like the bluesy “Since the Last Time.”
He’s a generous bandleader, trading solos with everyone onstage. Pianist Jim Cox had many fun licks and Harvey Thompson on tenor saxophone seemed to enjoy himself. Chad Willis can hold a note on trumpet longer than just about anybody. Charles Rose can turn a trombone into a trumpet. Lovett turned many of his songs into a jam with the rhythm section and bassist Viktor Krauss, James Gilmore on congas, and drummer Russ Kunkel.
As the night wore on, the horns left the stage for the more country end of his repertoire featuring songs full of guitar and fiddle licks. For these songs he traded solos with his fellow strings players – longtime bandmate John Hagen on cello, Buck Reid on steel guitar, and Ray Henrdon on electric guitar. These songs imparted some of Lovett’s downhome life philosophy, like the anthem “Ain’t No More Cane,” the tear jerker “Nobody Knows Me,” and his advice for life: “All Downhill From Here.”
Some other life advice he had for aspiring musicians? To buy a bus, which makes trying to make it a lot more comfortable. He played a lot of songs about being on the road. From the gorgeous “LA County” to a tune about childhood road trips in “South Texas Girl.” He also took a bit of a break, playing along on songs by fiddler Luke Bulla and acoustic guitarist Keith Sewell. He ended the night with a few more big songs like the high energy “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)” and “Wallisville Road.”
He also played a few requests from the crowd and “the twitter,” like the hilarious “Don’t Touch My Hat” and the rare “Family Reserve.”
Lyle Lovett is an American treasure and one of the best songwriters of his generation. The fact that his band seems to gain members without ever losing them is a testament to his character in an industry not always known for it. In the end, it seemed like three concerts in one, stitched together with Lyle Lovett’s inimitable wit and magic guitar.
Running Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, with no intermission.
Lyle Lovett & His Large Band played for one night only, August 14th at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap – 1645 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future performances and information: call (877) 965-3872, or check out Wolf Trap’s calendar of events.
Lyle Lovett’s website.