When Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt took the stage Thursday night at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, it felt more like they were walking into their living room instead of getting ready to perform before a crowd of 2,000 – and it set the mood for the evening.
The setting of two chairs, four guitars and a couple of microphones lent an intimate feel to the hall. Add a sound system that enhanced rather than overpowered and it's easy to see why acoustic tours are enjoying a revival. When all the elements come together like this, it's about the music.
The Dallas gig was the last leg of a two-month tour that took Lovett and Hiatt from the west coast through Idaho, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma and included Lone Star stops in Galveston, Austin and San Antonio.
“I don't leave home without him,” Lovett said of Hiatt.
With good reason.
The duo represent songwriting at its best.
Since 1980, Lovett has released 13 albums, won four Grammys and was recently named 2011 Texas Musician of the Year by the Texas Commission on the Arts. His songs include “She's No Lady,” “That's Right, You're Not From Texas,” and “If I Had A Boat.”
Hiatt's songs have been covered by Bob Dylan, Three Dog Night, B.B. King, Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffett. Bonnie Raitt had a big hit with Hiatt's “This Thing Called Love” in 1989. In 2008, he was given the American Music Association's Lifetime Achievement in Songwriting Award. His new CD, “Dirty Jeans and Mud Slide Hymns” is set for release on Aug. 2.
During their long careers, the musicians have played a lot of venues. The Meyerson's acoustics made an impression on Hiatt.
“The sound is big in here,” the Indiana native noted.
With perfect timing, Lovett replied, “Welcome to Texas, John.”
Along with the great acoustics came the need to stay in tune, requiring the guys to take a minute between songs to make minor adjustments.
“It's like a giant speaker,” Hiatt commented. “You can hear everything.”
“That's the point,” responded Lovett.
The banter continued through the evening, much to the delight of the appreciative crowd.
“How did we get in a place as nice as this?” Hiatt asked.
“I don't know,” Lovett answered in his shy staccato stutter.
The set list included Lovett classics like “Private Conversation,” “L.A. County,” “Grandmother's Ring,” “This Old Porch” and “Cowboy Man.”
Hiatt's contributions to the evening included “Tennessee Plates,” “Riding with the King,” “Drive South” and “This Thing Called Love.”
The encore included Hiatt's “Have a Little Faith in Me” and Lovett's “My Baby Don't Tolerate,” which featured a soaring guitar solo by Hiatt.
In addition to two musicians doing an evening of great songs, the technicians responsible for the sound are to be commended. After a disappointing experience at the recent Emmylou Harris show in the Winspear Opera House, it was so nice to hear every word of Lovett's and Hiatt's glorious lyrics.
For those who love good stories, well told, it really doesn't get much better. Bravo.
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