Lyle Lovett and his Large Band: 4 November 2009 - Beacon Theatre, New York / Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner
Not even tickets to game six of the World Series could dissuade some fans from settling down to two-and-a-half hours with Lyle Lovett and his large band—though several Yankee ticket scalpers still paced outside the Beacon Theatre, miles from the big game in the Bronx. It was pretty fulfilling to see so many eschewing the conspicuous pomposity of yet another pinstriped championship for the antithetic Lovett. At times self-deprecating, but always dapper, demure, and humbling, Lovett led his 14-piece ensemble through a broad setlist of sounds old and new, big and small. Though supporting his most recent release, Natural Forces, and its decidedly country sound was the tour’s ostensible objective, Lovett indulged the crowd using his entire repertoire and array of styles (“My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” “Cute as a Bug,” “L.A. County,” and “I’ve Been to Memphis.”) His masterful band, brilliantly agile and polished, was up to the task: condensing into a bluegrass quartet with mandolin player Keith Sewell sidling up with Lovett for perfectly symmetrical harmonies (“Up in Indiana”); or expanding into a riotous blues band, guitars firing on all cylinders (“It’s Rock and Roll.”) One of Lovett’s most endearing attributes is his refusal to take himself seriously, and songs like “Pantry” (about food adultery) and “Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel” (chorus: “Choke my chicken till the sun goes down”) exuded that. At the same time he takes his craft and blessings seriously. Intimate numbers like “Nobody Know Me,” “Natural Forces,” and “Fat Babies,” all laced with tangential stories and quips, made the night seem like our very own Vh1 Storytellers--in a good way. Lovett, astute showman that he is, didn’t shy from pulling out “If I Had a Boat” when the moment called for it, and, always the modest gentleman, deflected the crowd’s praise at his band until the end.