Billboard (April 15, 1989)

Talent In Action:

Lyle Lovett/Leo Kottke
Beacon Theatre, N.Y.

      "This seems like an audience that could be easily taken advantage of, " said Lyle Lovett, eying the sold-out crowed before him.  And right he was, as he ruled over the faithful and the newly converted during the 90-minute set.

      Though known primarily as a country artist, Lovett focused this March 18 show on his considerable jazz and blues leanings.  He performed the entire swing-oriented side of his new MCA offering, Lyle Lovett And His Large Band, and largely ignored the country side.  But rather than slighting his country fans -- he performed plenty of twangy tunes from his first two albums -- Lovett's selections were more a testament to his musical versatility.

      He set the tone for the evening by opening with the bluesy number "Here I Am," trading wails with vocalist Francine Reed, and then slid into "Cryin' Shame," mirroring his latest album.  He ambled effortlessly between blues/jazz and country numbers.  And with his laconic tales of life's whimsy, he won over anyone who might have come merely to see his hightop hairdo.

      Thankfully, the acoustics were fine.  Though Lovett's voice doesn't cover a particularly wide range, it is filled with subtle nuances that suggest more than his oft-pointed lyrics say.  And he's certainly capable of belting out a tune when necessary, as he proved with "L.A. County" and "You Can't Resist It."

      Lovett has assembled one of the top bands on the road today, who did indeed loom large throughout the night as the nine members came and went as needed.  In especially fine form were cellist John Hagen, saxophonist Steve Marsh, and vocalist Reed, who turned up the temperature with her blistering version of  Ida Cox's "Wild Women Don't Get The Blues."

      Closing the show, Lovett delved into his endearing version of "Stand By Your Man," while the adoring audience showed they'd stand by him anywhere.

      Kottke proved to be the perfect warm-up act.  He wowed the audience with his acoustic guitar virtuosity and charmed them with his Garrison Keillor-like, homespun tales.  He sang a few tunes, including songs from his upcoming release on Private Music, which will be his first in eight years to feature vocals.  But for anyone who can make a guitar sing like Kottke, vocals are extraneous. Kottke also returned for two numbers with Lovett, and as the headliner appropriately summed up, "Playing acoustic guitar on stage with Leo Kottke is like pitching to Darryl Strawberry."  --  Melinda Newman

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