An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt Capitol Theater, Madison, WI October 14th, 2022
While you were asked not to take pictures of the show, John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett had you covered, painting pictures with their songs and in an acoustic evening sitting around trading stories, these two iconic songwriters colored their lyrical inspirations with rambling anecdotes, sly jokes, friendly teasing and open admiration. Emphasizing the homey nature of their show, the conversations often centered around the inspirations found in families. Marriage, children, love, all figured prominently in Hiatt’s, “Georgia Rae,” who then touched hearts by announcing the subject of the song, his baby daughter is about to have her own baby. Generations and traditions came across in Lovett’s, “12th of June,” whose own life arc had him waxing about being a first-time father late in life. Speaking of, “the irrefutable logic of a two-year old,” after performing, “Pants Are Overrated,” Lovett brought his dry wit and deadpan delivery in perfect harmony to the low-key atmosphere of musicians chatting, interviewing each other as fans as much as colleagues, calling each other their hero and praising albums, songs and the people who played on them.
From luthier Bill Collins to all around handyman Monte Trenckmann, both John and Lyle undercut their own achievements compared to those who had “real jobs” and could make something out of nothing. Most would say, these musical journeymen work hard honing their craft and do indeed make something out of nothing, molding feelings and impressions into characters and situations as real as such fictions allow. From John’s opening song, “Drive South”, to Lyle’s tongue in cheek, “She’s No Lady,” entire worlds were created, fueled in part by their experiences but largely from their imaginations and an encyclopedic knowledge of American music styles. Experts in conveying human behavior in their lyrics, the pair matched each other in economy and compassion. Their modesty undersells that they have managed a good living writing songs and playing music, with thirteen albums to Lyle’s credit and ten Grammy nominations to John’s, including one for his most recent album, “Leftover Feelings.”
Despite the apparently random flow of topics, the tag-team approach managed to include fan favorites and songs from their new records into a seamless fleeting two-and-a-half-hour show, casually directing a wonderful set list that was familiar and somehow surprising, like an old acquaintance you hadn’t seen in a while. While John performed with an occasional harmony from Lyle, the guitar-picker in Hiatt could not resist supplementing Lovett’s song with nimble blues riffs and country-rock runs that were welcome additions to the evening’s intimate minimalism. Always supportive, the only real duet occurred on John’s, “Thing Called Love,” and that departure from the solo approach shook the house. Perhaps together they were just too much and talent like this is better served in alternating doses.
Whether quoting Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt or name-dropping Mickey’s Dairy Bar, these Madison favorites charmed the Capitol Theater’s packed house with a concert experience that was remarkable, memorable, personal and insightful. I can’t wait till they come around again.