Live Review: Lyle Lovett @ Casino New Brunswick, Wednesday July 3, 2013

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Dear Moncton residents that missed Lyle Lovett’s show at Casino New Brunswick last week: Tsk tsk tsk. I say this because you missed one helluva show. After all, it’s not every day that Lyle Lovett visits us in Atlantic Canada. But with any luck, his shows in Moncton and Halifax last week won’t mark the last time that he will be in our neck of the woods to perform.

For his inaugural shows in Atlantic Canada, Lyle Lovett had his Acoustic Group in tow. Consisting of legendary drummer Russ Kunkel, bassist Victor Krauss, multi-instrumentalist Keith Sewell as well as Luke Bulla on fiddle and guitar, Lyle’s band positively smoked. While many of Lyle’s songs are acoustic-based and therefore well suited to the five-piece band that was on Casino New Brunswick’s stage, it was songs like the Gospel-influenced “Church”, “I Will Rise Up” and “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)” where the strength of his acoustic group truly shone through. On record, the songs are punctuated with horns, a chorus of vocals and more and in turn stood to suffer from not having those elements in this configuration of the live show. But thanks to his Acoustic Group, the songs were more than capably filled-out.

In a true showing of how gracious of an entertainer he could be, Lovett afforded Bulla and Sewell the opportunity to perform songs from their respective solo albums and then prompted each of them to share details of where the audience might find said songs. Dozens upon dozens of musicians performing with higher profile musicians have careers outside of their “main gig” but how many would be afforded on-stage time to not only talk about their solo work but also perform songs? Very few. I can assure you of that.

Lovett proved to be a natural entertainer live and while you might assume this is a given for any musician that gets on stage in front of an audience, you couldn’t be more wrong. He shared many amusing anecdotes between songs; I soon began to anticipate Lyle’s between song banter almost as much as what the next song would be. From the stage, Lyle interacted with audience members, talking with one specific concert goer of how his horses performed in a recent derby. It made the show all the more endearing.

But Lovett showed he was also more than capable of delivering a poignant message as well.

In the introduction to his 2009 song “Natural Forces”, Lovett told the crowd how he was at home on one Sunday afternoon and was amused by a commercial on TV. That commercial was followed up by the channel’s preview of their evening newscast which was going to feature a segment on the armed forces that were engaged in combat overseas. He told the crowd how he suddenly became acutely aware that, unlike him, not everyone was at home enjoying a beer on a warm Sunday afternoon, laughing at a mindless commercial on television. Acknowledging the significant contributions that both the Canadian and American armed forces have made to Afghanistan, Lyle’s insight behind the track gave the song’s lyrics additional poignancy:

“Now as I sit here safe at home
With a cold Coors Lite an’ the TV on
All the sacrifice and the death and war
Lord I pray that I’m worth fighting for”

You’re worth fighting for, Lyle. Thank you for coming to Atlantic Canada to share your music and stories with us.