“And if I were like lightning/I wouldn’t need no sneakers/I could come and go whenever I would please…”
Tough words from a Texas troubadour. But Lyle Lovett was no match for the electric storm that whipped through Red Rocks Amphitheater and nearly cut short his performance with his sixteen-piece Large Band on this July evening. Colorado is Lyle country, however, and lightning was not enough to empty the 9,000-seat venue when the band left the stage midway through the show to wait for the weather to relent.
Before the unscheduled intermission, Lovett and his band already had warmed the sodden crowd with many of his best-known and most upbeat songs. The pair of instrumentals that opened the show segued into the gospel rouser “Church”, the oddball half-spoken “Here I Am”, the Texas swing of “Cowboy Man”, and the R&B of “She Makes Me Feel Good”. Lovett then slowed down the tempo, talking about family members who have long operated a grocery store and funeral parlor side by side in Texas.
“You have to be careful which one you go into because only one of them has a door that opens both ways,” Lovett said with his trademark deadpan delivery. Then he strummed the opening chords of “Since The Last Time”, his poignant tale of a funeral.
Although Lovett offered a few obscure chestnuts, such as the covers he recorded for the Bob Wills and Kinky Friedman tribute albums, the set list included much of the material that comprises his Live In Texas album, such as his staples “She’s No Lady” and the swing anthem “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)”. Most of the band members from that 1995 concert recording remain with Lovett, including acoustic bassist Viktor Krauss and pedal steel player Buck Reid. Singer Francine Reed trucked out her standard solo number “Wild Women Don’t Get The Blues”, her charismatic persona presenting a strong contrast to Lovett’s detached demeanor. Likewise, the horn and string sections and Reed’s fellow background singers complemented Lovett’s rather straight delivery.
On Friedman’s “Sold American”, opening act Shawn Colvin, who was joined by Lovett during her acoustic solo set, returned to the stage to contributed background vocals. She also sang the duet part originally recorded by Rickie Lee Jones on the breathtaking ballad “North Dakota”.
By then, the wind had begun directing sheets of rain at the stage, and the lightning was becoming an increasing threat. Lovett had enough time to perform “If I Had A Boat” and “God Will” before the band fled the stage.
About three-fourths of the audience loyally braved the elements to await Lovett’s return. Around 20 minutes later, Lovett emerged alone, perhaps to test the weather on his own, and perform the gentle tunes “Nobody Knows Me” and “Family Reserve” solo acoustic, a pair of intimate highlights for the evening. The band then rejoined him to play another set of crowd-pleasers, including “M-O-N-E-Y” and the extended version of “You Can’t Resist It” (featuring cellist John Hagen’s trademark solo).
Lovett may not have had new material to deliver just yet, but he’s created such a strong body of work and surrounded himself with such stellar musicians, he can coast for a while.