Written by Michael Pittman
Dec 21, 2011 at 08:00 PM
ImageI’ll go on record as saying Lyle Lovett is as good an ambassador for The Great Republic of Texas as there ever has been and probably ever will be. So it was an extra special early Christmas for the 2700 strong near-sellout crowd at the Verizon Theater when Lyle Lovett & His Acoustic Group took the stage this Wednesday night.

With no opening act, Lyle transfixed the audience for more than 2 ½ hours with a sort of tour de force of songs spanning from his early days until now and the release of his Christmas EP. A true artist can find inspiration just about anywhere, but it takes an artist of Lyle’s genius to make a trip to the grocery store into a work of art with “The Girl With the Holiday Smile”. That song, as well as “Baby it’s Cold Outside” from the new EP served up as good a holiday harmony as you’ll find anywhere and I for one felt the Christmas spirit in each verse! Hehe..where’s that store??

The Acoustic Group is essentially the core members of the Large Band and at the very core of the Large Band are Lyle with John Hagen on cello and James Gilmer on percussion who have played together since way back to 1976.  Long time member and one of my favorite musicians Viktor Krauss held down the double bass. The one and only Russ Kunkle on drums was there. The two guys standing either side of Lovett were Luke Bulla on fiddle and Keith Sewell on mandolin/guitar. Lovett never fails to bring us some of the most talented players around and these two were no exception as they raced each other to see who would emerge as King of the Riffs this evening. Those two were absolutely on fire.

Besides the music and the songwriting, all of which were superb, there is an element I always look for when I see any musical event live. I watch the band members to see how well they interact and cue off of each other and this band is a masterful, brilliantly executed example of how to lay a rhythm in just the right spot or maybe drop that one special note in just the right place. There’s a dimension that goes beyond the dynamic ebb and flow of a song, it’s the intangible that puts the music over the top and makes us remember the music long after the show is over. In photography, as in most visual arts there is a compositional style called “negative space”. We’ve all seen it and in music you can think of it as the notes that DON’T get played rather than the ones that do. When a group of musicians can work the negative space as well as this band does, and put that together with stunning songwriting and an unassuming personality you’ve got a rare thing indeed. Hats off to this band and everyone in it.

ImageI’ll give you what I remember of the song list later, but right now I’d like to highlight “North Dakota” which is a song Lyle co-wrote with Willis Alan Ramsey and I can’t finish this article without a mention of how much Texas misses Willis! Who knows, maybe if we all hold our mouths just right we can convince Lyle and Willis to come do a song swap at The Crighton Theatre here in Conroe. Now that would be a show…

Song List:

Here I Am
I’ve Been to Memphis
Cowboy Man
Private Conversation
Well Alright (Buddy Holly)
I Will Rise Up
My Baby Don’t Tolerate
She’s Already Made Up Her Mind
If I Were the Man You Wanted
This Old Porch
Keep It in Your Pantry
I’ll Come Knocking
More Pretty Girls Than One
The Girl With the Holiday Smile
If I Had a Pony
She’s No Lady
North Dakota
White Freightliner Blues (Townes Van Zandt)
That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)
You Can’t Resist It