Lyle Lovett & His Acoustic Band
Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Better Than: Anyone who didn't know any better would ever expect
There was this comment overheard in the men's room following an astounding set by Lyle Lovett & His Acoustic Group: "Can you believe that concert took place in Miami."
It ought not be misconstrued as a putdown of our fair city's musical tastes. Rather, it points to the fact that artists like Lovett, bred in the heartland and known for songs etched with pure down-home designs, visit this area far too infrequently.
Lovett, a proud Texan by both birth and bearing, is the kind of artist who can rally the faithful, making for an unlikely draw in a town where Latin sensibilities rule and the pace is geared more toward hip-hop and salsa than a country swing and sway.
Nevertheless, with an enthusiastic crowd that turned out in impressive numbers to fill a respectable portion of the Knight Concert Hall's sumptuous environs, it was not only a rare chance to see this Americana icon, but also an event akin to a coming-home celebration.
Lovett, one of the most humble and unpretentious artists this particular reporter has ever encountered, showed why he boasts a reputation as the ideal entertainer, given his ability to connect with the crowd, offer all sorts of anecdotes, and also share plenty of good-natured banter with his band.
And what a band Lovett has ... His Acoustic Group is nothing less than an all-star ensemble, one that consists of legendary drummer and veteran of literally hundreds of star-studded sessions Russ Kunkel; bassist extraordinaire Viktor Krauss; singer and fiddler Luke Bulla; guitarist, mandolin player, and singer-songwriter Keith Sewell; and longtime (since 1979) cello player in residence John Hagen. It's also a credit to Lovett's humility and generosity that each player is given ample space in the spotlight and allowed to contribute so considerably to this extremely tight-knit team.
All the while, there's no denying Lovett's skill at center stage. One moment, he was sharing his dry wit, relating tales of his initial introduction to Miami in 1986 -- when, as support act to Bonnie Raitt at what was then known as MetroZoo -- he encountered what appeared to be a backstage Don Johnson look-alike obviously basking in the glory of the then-popular Miami Vice. And later, he told of his amazement at how in London, an audience member clad in country plumage climbed onstage and decided to dance along to the band's initial number. "People thought she was part of the show," Lovett recalled. "It might have helped us out if she was."
Even his introduction was somewhat unusual. "I'm the guy who sits next to you and reads your newspaper," he deadpanned before commencing to sing the aptly titled "Here I Am" with his trademark parched but passionate voice.
Indeed, plaintive pleas and understated humor seemed to find common ground throughout the evening. Except, that is, when Bulla and Sewell initiated a fiddle and mandolin duet that found the group basking in bluegrass ("Farmer Brown," "Cute As a Bug"), or when the four musicians at the fore shared part harmonies in a manner akin to a gospel revival ("Ain't No More Cane," "I Will Rise Up," "Church""). Still, the most appreciated moments came when Lovett and company played their more tender tunes -- "If I Had a Boat," "L.A. County," and the somewhat tongue-in-cheek "She's No Lady."
Indeed, that after-concert critique, overheard in the stalls, sums the evening up sucinctly.
Personal Bias: Having seen Mr. Lovett and company on several occasions, I can personally attest to the fact that he continues to live up to the expectations he continually sets for himself.
The Crowd: Suffice it to say the number of cowboy boots and amount of denim in the crowd was far higher than usual.
By the Way: The Knight Concert Hall is an amazing place. Even Lovett himself was enthralled as he pointed out repeatedly during the show. "It's a privilege to play here," he remarked.
Lyle Lovett's Setlist:
-"Here I Am"
-"Garfield's Blackberry Blossom"
-"Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel"
-"Cute as a Bug"
-"I Will Rise Up"
-"I've Been to Memphis"
-"San Antonio Girl"
-"That's Right (You're Not From Texas)"
-"Nobody Knows Me"
-"The Truck Song"
-"Give Back My Heart"
-"Anyhow, I Love You"
-"If I Had a Boat"
-"She's No Lady"
-"My Baby Don't Tolerate"
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