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Concert Reviews:
Hot Lyle Lovett show warms up a cold night at Meadow Brook

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, September 25, 2010

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ROCHESTER HILLS -- Give Lyle Lovett credit for knowing how to curry favor with the locals.

During his two-and-a-half hour concert Friday night (Sept. 24) at the Meadow Brook Music Festival, the Texas singer-songwriter duly noted that two of the singers in his Large Band -- Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens -- hail from metro Detroit. And are part of Was (Not Was).

But then Lovett took the extra step, leaving the stage to let Atkinson and Bowens have a little home town spotlight as the Large Band delivered the Was (Not Was) hit "Walk the Dinosaur."

It was a classy moment in a typically classy and tasteful Lovett show -- but not so classy and tasteful that it wasn't a lot of fun, too.

A master of dry humor and deadpan countenance, Lovett peppered the night with witty and good-humored between-song commentary, noting the chilly evening weather -- at times Friday evening's wind was even louder than the band -- and introducing "Her First Mistake" by recalling how he and other Houston-area male youths paled before slick northerners who moved to Texas while he was growing up. He also engaged longtime Large Band cellist John Hagen in a discussion about where Hagen goes during the songs he doesn't play on.

Most of the fun, however, was in the music, 26 songs that formed an Americana travelogue of country, Texas swing, blues gospel and rock flavors. The Large Band swiveled from one to the other with seamless ease, with Lovett deploying the 14-piece ensemble in various configurations ranging from a string quartet for Vince Bell's "Sun and Moon and Stars" and Eric Taylor's "Whooping Crane" to a bluegrass foursome for "Pantry" and Walter Hyatt's "I'll Come Knockin'." Other highlights included "Cowboy Man," the upbeat electric blues tunes "My Baby Don't Tolerate," the forceful chorale "I Will Rise Up," the strolling "She's No Lady," the ringing "If I Had a Boat," the grinning "Church," "You Can't Resist It" and a smooth rendition of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away" with Arnold McCuller taking Al Green's duet part.

Lovett was clearly grateful for the reception from the small but exuberant crowd, and he was gracious in paying tribute to The Ark in Ann Arbor and also noting his first show at Meadow Brook, in 1990 opening for Rickie Lee Jones. Much has happened since then, but Lovett and his Large Band remain dynamic purveyors of American music who never fail to disappoint on the stage.

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