Lyle Lovett and His Large Band rolled into the Hard Rock Rocksino in suburban Cleveland, OH last Wednesday night for a musical journey into history. More specifically, it was a journey into Lovett’s 30-year history with Big Band music and his musician friends.
As each song played out, Lovett introduced bandmates Matt Rollings on piano, Ray Herndon on guitar, Buck Reid on steel guitar, Viktor Krauss on bass, Luke Bulla on fiddle, Keith Sewell on guitar, John Hagen on cello, James Gilmer on congas, and Russ Kunkel on drums. Some of the famous Muscle Shoals Horns included Harvey Thompson on trumpet, Charles Rose on trombone, and Brad Leali on saxophone. Finally Lovett introduced Francine Reed as his lead vocal accompanist. He mentioned he has been playing with some of these musicians since 1978.
Starting with the instrumental “The Blues Walk,” the band kicked into high gear with each member warming up with a short solo. Lovett strolled onto the stage and jumped right into the gospel-flavored “I’m A Soldier In The Army Of The Lord” backed by a 12-piece choir from a local church. Instantly the show took on a rousing, feel-good tone as the band rollicked through the song led by Lovett and the choir. The hit “Church” pumped up the crowd even more as some rose to their feet and clapped and sang along. With such a talented backing band, Lovett sang with relative ease as his musician friends carried the tune to perfection.
Each song came with a story, sometimes a long story, that Lovett carefully crafted to explain a relationship with a band member or his songwriting. Lovett’s dry sense of humor made you feel as if you were in a comedy club at times as he extracted many laughs from the crowd and fellow bandmates. It was something you come to expect from Lovett and it was graciously welcomed. The night switched from Gospel to Country, to Big Band Swing, back to Gospel again and the crowd ate it up. This went on for over two and a half hours and 23 songs. Lovett and his crew entertained and seemed to have fun doing The highlights were too many to mention and every song elicited a wild crowd reaction with notable tunes like “Penguins”, I’ll Fly Away”, “If I Had A Boat”, “Here I Am”, and “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)” standing out from the rest. Lovett also gave Luke Bulla the spotlight for one of his own tunes, a sublime “The Temperance Reel”. Long-time friend Francine Reid took over the mic for a lively “Wild Women Don’t Have The Blues”. Lovett has put together a great show for this tour, something not lost on this crowd.
In conclusion, why Lovett is not wildly popular is a bit of a mystery. The talent exhibited this night far exceeded many popular acts on tour or on radio. The loyal fans that packed the house tonight couldn’t care less though. They know Lovett’s talent and what he brings to the stage. The rest of the world is missing one of the true genius performers playing out today.
The Blues Walk
I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord
I Will Rise Up
Choke My Chicken
I Know You Know
Step Inside This House
Anyhow I Love You
The Temperance Reel (Luke Bulla cover, Luke Bulla lead vocal)
I’ll Fly Away
If I Had a Boat
She’s No Lady
Here I Am
What Do You Do
Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues (Ida Cox cover, lead vocal by Francine Reid)
That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)
I’m Going to Wait
I’m Going to the Place
We would like to thank Michelle Findlay from Macklam Feldman Mangement for the credentials to review the show.