I was looking forward to the recent Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt concert at Kingsbury Hall. Despite bad experiences over the last few years at live performances— terrible sound systems, uncomfortable seats, obnoxious drunks, loud talkers and embarrassing seat dancers—Lyle is a reliable performer, and the pluses have outweighed the minuses.
This time, the audience, aside from the usual seat dancers and arm wavers, was all right, though mysterious odors came and went unpredictably around the hall. Emanations from insufficiently soaped body areas? Furtive flatulencies? The Lake Effect?
No, the problem, alas, was Lyle, aided and abetted by Mr. Hiatt. The two of them spent more time talking than singing; one or the other of them would launch into shaggy-dog reminiscence, or the two of them would exchange whimsical observations of the down-home variety. It was like being tied to a post while a couple of old-timers sat in front of a country store whittling away the afternoon, shooing away flies and boring each other with their stupor-inducing banalities. I fully expected one of them, Lyle or John, to actually hawk up a loogie, spit on the stage, and say something like, “Sure looks like rain’s a’ comin in.”
A little of that kind of stuff, as they say, goes a long way. Worse, however, was Lyle’s habit of finally starting a song, when it was his turn after a lugubrious song by his interlocutor, only to stop to elaborate on some earlier portion of the conversation, then starting up again, only to pause for further elaboration or narrative clarification. This would often continue until you felt like your head was going to explode.
Nevertheless, most of the audience seemed to think this was hilarious stuff, though, if you’ve paid $50 for your ticket, you are prepared and determined to enjoy yourself no matter how tedious and excruciating the entertainment turns out to be. The guy behind us, the sort of person who thinks he has been hired to provide a running commentary on the concert and whom you normally wish would just shut up, early on expressed his impatience with the banter up on the stage, remarking, for everyone within 10 rows to hear, “Hey, how about singing a couple of songs?” Ordinarily, I might have shot a glance over my shoulder at the commentator, but this time I was in complete agreement, as was, as far as I could tell, the seat-dancer next to me, who was getting antsy at the lack of opportunity to shimmy around in her chair, make cool faces, wave her arms around and do strange wiggling things with her fingers.
After about an hour, when it was clear that the har-deehar-har up on the stage was not just a preliminary—the equivalent of a bad opening act that makes you really appreciate the headliner—but the performance itself, many in the audience made for the exits, which is hard to do in Kingsbury Hall, owing to the cramped seats and long rows. It could have been that audience members were overcome by the intermittent odors wafting around the hall, but I am pretty certain they simply had their fill of the Hee Haw soiree on the stage.
As for my wife and me, there was no way out. We were right in the middle of the row, and my legs were so cramped from the tight seating that I didn’t know if I would be able to stand up and walk, let alone crawl over 23 people to get to the aisle. The tedious banter of the two singers (who did little singing), the cramped quarters, and the smell of frustration sweat growing in the hall had now exceeded the Geneva conventions against torture.
As I often do in such situations, I asked myself, WWDCD? In other words, what would Dick Cheney do? Bad heart and all, he would have bolted for the exit, no matter what the collateral damage.
So I grabbed my wife’s hand, and with a mighty heave, righted myself and lurched across numerous bodies, with no thought in my banter-affronted brain but to escape, no matter what the cost.
“Excuse me, excuse me, my brain tumor is just killing me, excuse me, so sorry, no don’t get up, thanks, it’s this tumor thing, yes, I hope I’ll be all right.”
When I got home, I put on Lyle Lovett’s “Church,” about a preacher who won’t shut up. It’s a great song.