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Thank You Guys

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt
Pabst Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
Feb. 17, 2009
Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt
Lyle Lovett
Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt
John Hiatt
Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt
Lyle Lovett

Story by Mike Linneman
Photos by Gypsy Davey

One musician's standard attire of a sharp suit didn't detract from the cozy, warm comfortable atmosphere that permeated the Pabst Theatre on Tuesday night. The crowd felt as if they were in someone's living room for a night of stories, jokes, and some of the most original, beautiful & haunting songs being sung by a couple of guys with a couple of guitars. Only the two guys in this living room are none other than Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt.

There wasn't going to be any pyrotechnics or flashy stage moves on this night, but the electricity in the crowd was tangible in its quiet attentiveness. Taking the stage, to warm applause, the two singer-songwriters sat down, and humbly thanked the crowd for coming out. Displaying a timing that only comes from a long friendship, they vollied back & forth on everything from the holding of grudges, the origins of the word Hoosier, to the frontier aspects of surviving solely on hotel mini-bar food, before playing a single song. No one minded, everyone listened, and everyone laughed.

Opening the night with the first song was legendary songwriter John Hiatt. His "Drive South" took everyone on the trip with his thick Indianna drawl leading the way. Hiatt's history of melding rock, acoustic, folk, new wave and Mississippi Delta blues into songs has captured the imagination of fellow artists ranging from Three Dog Night, Joe Cocker, Buddy Guy & Eric Clapton.

"This is my friend Lyle Lovett," Hiatt said quietly while taking applause. The more famous of the two, Lovett, seemed to play the role of interviewer pulling unique observations out of Hiatt and then capping the topic with his own dry wit. It would be the pattern for the evening. A song followed by a story which then would guide the selection of the next song. Hiatt's fondly recalling how much he loves that his wife loves to eat, brought about Lovett's "Keep It In Your Pantry." Hiatt's song "What Do We Do Now?" was returned with Lovett's "What Do You Do?"

The bare bones, stripped down element of the acoustic show, shined an all too deserving light on both the quality of the musicianship, and the imagery that is so vibrant in the lyrics both were singing. From Lovett crooning with feisty love in "She's No Lady" or Hiatt's thick, rich chords quieting down in "Your Dad Did" to reveal a 2-year old's dinner prayer "Help the starving children to get well; but let my brother's hamster burn in hell."

When Lovett offered up a strange & lovely story about a gold tooth, it led to "Creeps Like Me." Par for the course this evening, Hiatt applauded when he was finished. When Hiatt blistered his guitar, Lovett would smile as though hearing it for the first time. The mutual admiration was obvious as they rolled through collaborations on Hiatt's "Thing Called Love," and Lovett's "My Baby Don't Tolerate".

While Lovett's half of the duo may have come across as light and breezy, it was only in comparison to Hiatt's haunted narratives and powerful delivery of his vocals. This tango of alternately listening to each other play and weaving the set list from it is an exercise best left to seasoned pros. The ease with which it was pulled off belies the artistry and craftsmanship that are needed for it to be as intimate as it felt. The flow was natural and you felt part of it. For two hours there was no intermission. No one cared. Listening to "(Ain't No More) Cane on the Brazos" - a song both men have recorded - it was hard not to be moved both by the music and the personal chemistry between two friends. It was hard not to have felt like their friend, if only for this one night. That was their plan. Thank you guys.

Related articles:

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - July 2008
John Hiatt Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - June 2008
Music City Walk of Fame (John Hiatt) - Nashville, TN - Apr. 2007
John Hiatt / Shawn Colvin Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - Aug. 2007
Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Joe Ely and Guy Clark Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - Jan. 2007
SxSW Festival (Lyle Lovett) Festival review - Austin, TX - Mar. 2005
The 5th Annual Madison Bluesfest (Lyle Lovett) Festival review - Madison, WI - Aug. 2002

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt
Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt

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