A sure cure for a brutally hot day? A night at Utah's best summer concert venue with a tall, cool Texan.---
Lyle Lovett isn't for everyone. His half-sung, half-spoken lyrical style can be offputting to some ears. His insistence on delving into musical styles ranging from folk to roadhouse rock, country to old-timey bluegrass, makes him impossible to pigeonhole. And his lyrics seem to have a joke every other line, or at least some double- or triple-entendre to contend with.
If you're Tom Waits, those traits make you appealingly eclectic indie artist. If you're Lovett, you remain little more than the ex Mr. Julia Roberts to the cynical hipsters.
Lovett opened his sold-out Red Butte Garden gig with an unusually noisy guitar-rocker called "It's Rock and Roll" from his 2009 album Natural Forces, and it was jarring to fans who hadn't kept up with Lovett's new work. The follow-up was also a new tune, but much more in Lovett and his fans' comfort zones; "Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel" was a countrified tune with a jokey chorus of "I'm gonna choke my chicken 'til the sun comes up."
From there, the night was a easy-loping run through a bunch of old favorites—"Penguins," "Cowboy Man," "That's Right (You're Not From Texas)," "If I Had A Boat"—and an encore featuring one of my favorite songs ever, a cover of Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues."
Throughout, Lovett gave his 13-man Large Band plenty of chances to shine, via solos, instrumental breakdowns, and particularly during an old-fashioned bluegrass section mid-show featuring Lovett and just a few players showcasing serious harmonizing and pickin' skills. Long-time band member and female foil Francine Reed wasn't with the band, and Lovett made no mention of her, but her presence was certainly missed.
Even so, a solid if familiar show by a Utah fave.