Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts
August 20, 2011
Winding through downtown Carmel – one of the wealthiest suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana – the silhouette of the Palladium comes into view. Valet attendants congregated near the bottom of the massive staircase greeted evening guests as they made their ascent to the colossal doors of the Palladium, the 1600-seat crown jewel of the Center for the Performing ArtsÂ that resembles a Roman temple. From atop the staircase, the view of the immaculate grounds was breathtaking.
The ladies in attendance were dressed primarily in the “perfect black dress,” heels and pearls the norm; the gentlemen with whom they linked arms with, nearly as eloquently-clad.
A battalion of silver-haired citizens ushered patrons to their seats, andÂ one could not help but to gaze in wonderment at the beauty of the Palladium’s interior, with four levels of seating and immense huge organ pipes nestled behind the stage from which Lyle Lovett would be crooning in short order, and in turn would prove that the acoustics of the room were as impeccable as the surroundings they engrossed.
Opening the night with a jazzy instrumental with a Southern flare, four-time Grammy winner Lovett took center stage with his 14 piece Large Band surrounding him, including: guitarists Mitch Watkins and Ray Herndon, bassist Leland Skylar, cello player John Hagen, Keith Sewell on mandolin duties, pianist Matt Rollings, steel guitarist Paul Franklin, percussionist Russ Kunkel and a very animated soul choir that included Francis Reed.
After picking up his guitar, Lovett looked to the crowd with an expression that seemed to ask the question that may have been on the minds of many in this upper-crust filled room… “how will the evening unfold?”
Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” a number that Lovett first sang with the late “First Lady” in 1993, began the evening and left the audience chuckling was soon hushed by the ballad, “Rollin’ By,” and its descriptive lyrical story that depicts a busted old town on the plains of West Texas.
From here, “Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel,” a tune saturated in snare drums and bass riffs that is most well-known for its chicken noises from the choral section took the show back into the more soulfully compelling “Here I Am.”
“Here I Am” was more poetic than vocally mesmerizing, but the powerful chorus from both Lyle and Frances was chilling and served as the perfect preamble to a story from Lovett about his childhood and the similarities of standing on stage and a preacher viewing the congregation on Sundays. He remarked, “I see you too,” setting the stage for a potent gospel – and highlight of the evening — “I Will Rise Up.” The choir sung low and deep, evocatively removing the audience from the burbs of Carmel and planting them squarely in the Deep South.
As the night progressed, the soft-hearted comedy of Lovett was evident. With his rat’s nest hair, he covered everything from his deep love of his girlfriend to being blessed by the cooking channel; his bantering interludes always providing the perfect prequel for the next perfect tune.
By this time, The Large Band had meandered off the stage, leaving Lyle, Sklar, fiddler Luke Bulla, and Sewell to perform a classic round robin set included “Keep It In Your Pantry,” “I’ll come Knocking” and “Up In Indiana.”
The latter brought the Large Band back to the stage to accompany the quintet. With more appropriate banter of traveling, Lovett offered his audience the trio of true pleasers: “If I Had A Boat,” “She’s No Lady,” and “North Dakota” before returning to a bluesy number, “What Do You Do The Glory Of Love” and the flawless harmony between Lovett and Reed.
As Reed enriched the song with her dynamic soulful vocals, Lyle departed the stage and effectively gave it to the able hands and voice of Reed. In turn, Reed sang the song that would prompt the house to its feet as she belted out “Wild Women Don’t Get The Blues.”
As the song wrapped, Lovett returned for “That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas)” and the audience once again took their feet.
The encore for the evening was a three-tune set, highlighted by the magnificent interplay between Sewell, Bulla and Hagen’s intense cello playing.
With that, the evening came to an end. As the crowded house of folks wrapped up their night on the town, the babble amongst them was peculiar, with complaints about the acoustics and how it wasn’t that exciting of a show, confusing as it seemed to be a stellar show in a beautiful theater with wonderful acoustics. After all, what do aristocratic snob-types really know of good acoustics?
The real conclusion? Lovett is indeed an honest tune.