Lyle Lovett – Joan Armatrading

Friday night was Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (and it is large — a slew of guitars, including steel; keyboards, violin, drums and a barbershop quartet on backup vocals) down at Boarding House Park in Lowell. The Lowell Summer Music Series runs every weekend during the summer, and there’s always somebody you’re glad to catch.

Donna and I went down earlier in the summer to see Joan Armatrading — I hadn’t seen Joan in 25 years, so was very glad for the chance. At one point during the show, I had a flashback to Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party.” After playing some of our favorites from years gone by, Joan told the audience that now she was going to play some new songs, and there was this audible groan from the audience. Poor Ricky, poor Joan. Her voice is still very strong, but I’d have to agree with audience sentiment that it is at its most eloquent when she sings from a treasure trove of back catalog. Highlight of the show was a rousing crowd response to “Best Dress On.” If you’ve been to see her this summer, you know what I mean. A gimmick to get you to go to her website, but you know me, I’m not going to let a gimmick get in the way of a good dance. The young woman beside me was all liquored up and had had ants in her pants all night, so I knew she’d get up with me, and before long, the whole audience was up, screaming BEST DRESS ON to beat the band – the craic was good.

So here we were again, Donna and I, to see Lyle Lovett. Boarding House Park is an open-air venue – I don’t think more than 500 (I’d stand corrected) – all blankets and lawn chairs. And just like for Joan, Donna and I managed to squeeze our two beach chairs in between some blankets up front and made ourselves at home. Apparently you have to get there at 8 in the morning to get a good spot. I’m going to stick with the squeezing in thing.

This was my first time seeing Lyle. He has some devoted fans, and the place was packed, probably with another hundred out on the street. He put on a fine show, very much the entertainer. I’d never heard any of the songs before, except for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,”which he sang as a duet with Kat Edmonson, who had opened the show. Absolutely delightful. A breathy Iris Dement. Hers was a nice set.

Lyle got a few blues numbers in early, but for the most part it was all country. A lot of lyric repetition in each song, sounding very radio friendly. Very charming fellow, bantering with members of the band and with the audience, the band made a huge sound, with some very talented members – especially in the strings. Lyle’s voice is pleasing to the ear, and there’s nothing not to like. I don’t suppose I’ll go see him again, but I’m glad for the chance to see him this time around. A nice night out under the stars.

James Montgomery is playing there this weekend. So I might catch him, and that’ll probably wrap up the season for me.

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