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Concert Reviews:
Lovett And Hiatt Trade Songs, Jokes In Ann Arbor

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, February 23, 2009

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ANN ARBOR -- "So -- how was your day?" Lyle Lovett asked John Hiatt as casually as if the two were meeting on a street corner.

But they weren't. Instead the duo was on stage Friday (Feb. 20) at the Michigan Theater here, playing a two-hour and 20-minute tag-team acoustic show in which they traded off -- and occasionally collaborated on -- each other's songs and exchanged wry, dry-humored repartee, including some discussions that went on as long as the songs themselves.

Early on, Lovett noted the smell of popcorn in the theater, which also houses a movie complex. "I do feel like I'm at the movies -- only we're the movies," Hiatt noted, prompting Lovett to wonder what they'd be rated. Hiatt's response: PG, for "pretty good."

Friday's 23-song show was better than just "pretty good," of course. Lovett and Hiatt are both masterful songwriters and droll, instinctive showmen, cut from the same cloth in a manner that made them a comfortable fit on stage together -- sometimes to a fault. There were moments when the between-song patter went on a little too long and seemed more forced than necessary, killing any musical momentum that had been built up by the previous selection.

But those were rare instances, and thanks to sharp performances of their songs, Lovett and Hiatt -- who worked without a pre-prepared set list -- crafted an evening of pay-offs.

Hiatt opened the night with the unconditionally romantic "Love You Again" from his latest album, "Same Old Man." and Lovett answered appropriately with "What Do You Do/The Glory of Love." Not every couplet was as direct -- Hiatt's "The Tiki Bar is Open" and Lovett's "Farther Down the Line" were not exactly interrelated, though a pairing of Hiatt's lovelorn "Crossing Muddy Waters" and Lovett's pensive "I Will Rise Up/Ain't No More Cane," with Hiatt providing vocal and guitar accents, was certainly complementary."

Other highlights included: a new, as-yet-untitled lost love lament by Hiatt; cheerful renditions of "Choke My Chicken" and "Keep It In Your Pantry" by Lovett, with assistance from Hiatt; and a late-show run of favorites including Hiatt's "Perfectly Good Guitar," "Tennessee Plates," "Walk On" and "Thing Called Love," and Lovett's "She's No Lady" and "My Baby Don't Tolerate." The encores -- Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith" and Lovett's "If I Had a Boat" -- brought things to a gentle but uplifting conclusion.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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