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Story and photos by Joe HargreavesIn modest humility the lanky eccentric Lyle Lovett stood center stage backed by the members of His Large Band. Composed by design of musicians that possess talent greater than his. "When I get onstage, I want to be the least talented guy there," Lovett stated in an interview for People Magazine last September. He continued, "As a writer, there is not a more exciting feeling than hearing a bare-bones idea you had for a song come to life in an arrangement."
Brought to life Wednesday night Ð the second of a two-night stint at Potawatomi Northern Lights Theater Ð was an eclectic blend of songs pulled from his past 13 studio albums, with a primary focus on material from his most recent release It's Not Big It's Large. An album steeped in Lovett's usual mixture of swing, semi-pop, country, jazz, traditional folk and a touch of Gospel blues. A square peg with no desire in finding his hole, Lyle transcends genre altogether, positing himself as a true iconoclast within the industry.
The haunting spatial landscape created during "Don't Cry A Tear" was masterfully handled, and chillingly delivered. "Go if you must go / Turn if you must turn away / Don't cry a tear for me." The acoustic string arrangement and hanging electric drone reverberated within the small confines of the Northern Lights Theater and swept everyone away in the lyrical sadness.
The evening was filled with Lovett's charm of storytelling and song craft, as he laid out an exceptionally well-choreographed set displaying the breadth of the band's versatility. Lyle took full use of the pieces at his command, utilizing Milwaukee native Minister, Anthony McGahee and the Voyces to serve as backing choir on the Gospel sounds of "Ain't No More Cane," "Make It Happy," and "I Will Rise Up/Ain't No More Cane." Flanked opposite the Voyces stood Sweat Peas Atkinson and Harry Bowen (the once lead singers on Was/ Not Was' hit"Walk The Dinosaur"), to provide the rich deep baritone that complemented McGahee's vivacious choir. "I Will Rise Up" may be a song about dying, but the audience never sounded more alive than when repeating the chant "Til I Meet My End."
Lyle stated that no one side of a relationship should ever be having more fun than the other, using the personal anecdote Ð an appropriate one for the venue - the story of his mother Bernell and her love of gambling. She'd play the slots until her palms were black (pre video slot), and not even break for meals. That is, until Lyle's father William served them to her so she'd never have to leave. You see Bernell was having the time of her life gambling, William too, simply serving her food.
Lyle Lovett and his His Large Band delivered one hell of a performance wrapping up their stop in Milwaukee. No one side of our relationship had more fun than the other...I assure you!
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