Written by Dave Clements
ImageWe headed to one of our favorite venues, The Woodlands Pavilion, on yet another warm as summer September night.  It was a Thursday night and the date was 9/11.  On this 13 yr. anniversary of those historic and shattering attacks no mention was made of the significance by either performer.

Tonight was officially billed as Lyle Lovett and his Large Band & Robert Earl Keen.  Robert Earl got things started for his college buddy, Lyle.  Before REK took the stage folks around us were pointing out to each other multiple sightings of many of Lyle’s family members.  I actually worked with Lyle’s mother Bernell back in my corporate days before retiring from ExxonMobil.  It would have been nice to run into her but I did not have that pleasure.

The demographics of the crowd seemed decidedly upper spectrum of the baby boomers.  REK was late getting started but proved he was worth the wait.  He strolled out in a 3-piece suit and fancy suede cowboy hat…and sunglasses.  He quickly promised his fans he would take them off as soon as the sun went down.  He opened with ‘Corpus Christi Bay’ (my wife’s birthplace, btw) and the crowd cheered.  The 4 band members backing REK up sounded tight and the steel guitar was outstanding.

Early in this set, midway through a song, Robert said “I always wonder if this is the end.  Is anyone going to show up? Where am I gonna get another job? But inevitably you DO show up.  And thank you!”  Then he went on to dedicate his song ‘Mr. Wolf and Mamabear’ to his college history professor, Dr. Quincy Adams, who was in the audience.   REK gave us an excellent cover of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Flyin’ Shoes’ and let us know how meaningful Van Zandt’s influence has been on him.  He told a few stories about his days growing up in Houston and trips to Conroe with his brother to clean up an old hotel owned by his parents.  He was apparently bribed and seduced by the promise of Conroe’s Tex-Mex food!

The crowd loved ‘Feelin’ Good Again’.  Then, of course, we were treated to ‘Merry Christmas from the Family’, reminding us how scarily close we are to the holidays.  And next, up on their feet and shouting out every lyric, the crowd got into ‘The Road Goes on Forever’.  That brought an appreciative standing ovation.  For his encore, REK sang ‘I Gotta Go’.  But ‘the party never ends’…

Mr. Lyle Lovett took the stage to join his Large Band and gave us the excellence we have come to expect.  The crowd chuckled their enjoyment as he began his now well known cover of Tammy Wynette’s ‘Stand By Your Man’.  There is definitely something amusing about hearing that distinctive southern male voice singing ‘Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…’.

Next a beautiful cello solo lead us in to ‘Cowboy Man’.  He dedicated ‘Cute as a Bug’ to his Aunt Sheila in the audience.  Then as he sang the perplexing but enjoyable ‘Penguins’, Lyle and his band members performed synchronized leg movements.  They weren’t The Temptations, but it was fun!

ImageRobert Earl Keen came back out on the stage to sing ‘Long Tall Texan’ with longtime friend Lyle.  REK let us know that his cowboy hat came from Canada…and the crowd, of course, booed.  Then he introduced former Texas A & M quarterback David Walker who was in attendance.  These two guys, REK and LL, met in college at A & M.  They have an obvious affection and respect for one another and it makes for a great performance.  Their duet of Lyle’s ‘This Old Porch’ was terrific!

When REK exited again, Lyle went back to his solo performance giving fans ‘My Baby Don’t Tolerate’, ‘That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas)’, ‘San Antonio Girl’, ‘I Know You Know’, and other favorites. We were also introduced to another audience member, Lyle’s 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Fricke.

Two other standout performances tonight I want to mention are the amazing drums played by Mr. Russ Kunkel, and the amazing words sung by Lyle’s longtime backup singer Ms. Francine Reed.  When Ms. Reed belts out ‘Wild Women Don’t Get The Blues’, you just have no choice other than to believe her!

Robert Earl Keen joined Lyle back out on stage to sing another one of the crowd’s favorites to sing along to, ‘Church’.  They concluded with another Van Zandt cover, ‘White Freightliner Blues’.

Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen threw a Texas sized party tonight for old friends, family, and the rest of us fans who were willing to pay the price of admission.  And a good time was had by all!  Well done!

Until next time remember there is no time to kill,