Review: Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt (Kodak Center, Rochester NY. February 27, 2019)

2019 is shaping up to be quite a year for concerts. From old school metal to folk, and from contemporary prog to classic rock, The Guv’nor’s calendar is already pretty full.

First up was this little gem:

I’ve been a fan of both for many years, and while I’ve seen Hiatt several times with his various bands since the mid 80s, I’ve never seen him solo. I’ve also never seen Lovett in any of his incarnations, so heading the few miles from home down Ridge Road to the Kodak Center was a no brainer, even though snow and cold and gloom of night did their best to stop us and a couple of thousand winter-weary Rochesterians from seeing these master storytellers complete their appointed rounds.

The evening’s festivities consisted of alternating songs by each artist along with fun banter in between about everything from playing with mean old bluesmen (after Hiatt’s “Master of Disaster”) to teenagers stealing cars (after Hiatt’s “Tennessee Plates”). And while the setlist was more of a greatest hits than a “for-the-fans” deep cuts evening, that was just fine.

After all, we were treated to Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love,” “Have a Little Faith in Me,” and “Perfectly Good Guitar,” side-by-side with Lovett’s “She’s No Lady, She’s My Wife,” “She’s Already Made up Her Mind,” and “If I Had a Boat” during the two-hour plus show. I can’t think of too many times I’ve been to shows that have featured so many legitimate contenders for inclusion in the next edition of the Great American Songbook.

However, from the opening notes of Hiatt’s “Real Fine Love,” it was clear that years on the road — or maybe the crappy Rochester weather — had taken its toll on their voices. To be fair, no one was expecting Freddie Mercuryesque vocal gymnastics and bombast out of the pair. But Lovett’s indiosyncratic vocal catch became more like a fissure on the night, while Hiatt’s voice, always rough and gravelly at the best of times, had lost a lot of its top end, leading to him singing flat whenever he reached for a high note.

Yet what the Lord taketh away, the Lord also giveth, and when the two jumped in on each others tunes, the show reached another level. Lovett’s traded verses and harmonies on Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love,” and Hiatt’s harmonies and guitar and harmonica leads on Michael Frank’s “White Boy Lost in the Blues” (Lovett’s choice of song) provided two of the evening’s most memorable highlights

In fact, Hiatt’s leads were the biggest revelation of the night. From the chord-driven solo on his own “Lipstick Sunset” though to the the sheer humor of his single note bends on Lovett’s “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” Hiatt showed he could really stand out as a musician in such a stripped-down setting.

In the end, the combination of Lovett’s Texas swing and Hiatt’s alt-country did much to warm our hearts and souls on such a frigid, snowy Rochester evening. They couldn’t believe we’d made it out to see them and told us so. They also couldn’t believe they had made it out themselves.

It’s a story, I suspect, they will be telling between songs on more than a few future dates.

About Bruce Pegg

I write about running, music and spirituality.
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