The Birchmere, Virginia
Night 2 of a 2 night stop. Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen (REK) and 6 guitars between them. And that was it.
I forecast to Sharon that the high ticket price (3 figures plus) was not for the music but for the patter. And so it proved. You’d pay the money just to sit and listen to two old stagers who’ve known each other for decades just swap stories and musings, and all done in a East Texas accent. Willie’s birthday…the house being moved by a car…film stars in elevators. I’d buy that podcast.
The music could almost seem like an afterthought. Except you’d pay the ticket price just to listen to them play and sing. Lyle obviously has his own vocal style, but in a venue like the Birchmere he’s able to get every thought and nuance out of the lyrics. REK on the other hand is a bit rougher around the edges in both his playing and singing, but it sounded so genuine that you could live the song.
In short, wonderful. If they’re on tour, go see them. Go see them twice. Support acts like this. In recent memory, it’s up there with the OMD show as “best thing in ages”
About what you’d expect. Sharon got there early and in holding our seats got stuck next to a lovely chatty lady called Julie Andrews – all she wanted to do was talk gin…
Enthusiastic, respectful and mature.
It made me think..
A few things:
1. Country/Americana,, done well, makes you appreciate songwriting and lyrics especially. Whole paragraphs can be carried in 4 words and a Texas twang. The concision is a skill that not enough have. No wasted words or notes.
2. I wonder if we shall see their likes again, and Lyle especially. I got rather sentimental last night for an era and experiences I’ve never had. He tours either light (like this) or with his Large band. I have the sense that (especially with the Large Band) he’s continuing a musical tradition that has been handed down the generations, and he’s doing his best to honor that and perpetuate it. I imagine a small venue in downtown Podunk, Texas, where he, and a variety of acts, are the only thing in town on Saturday; outside it’s blowing a dust storm, and tomorrow the audience is going back to a hard life of work. Think Dust Bowl in the 30s. And he comes in and delivers a great night out where everything else disappears for 2 1/2 hours. Unfailingly courteous to the audience, and a very nice speech at the end thanking the venue, what the venue means to him and REK, and how much they appreciate the audience. For a night you’re transported.
The music matters; the patter matters; the audience matter. The sum of all these parts is an experience that may not last for too many more years.