I have never seen Campbell Hall as full as it was this past Tuesday night at the John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett concert. Every seat in the hall was filled with high spirits and enthusiasm for the spectacle on stage. The performers were absolutely remarkable.
They had a conservative set up with mellow lights illuminating their elegantly aging faces. Their set up was concentrated at the middle of the stage, with each performer sitting in a chair surrounded by a few beautiful acoustic guitars. There was no band or any additional instruments — just the men, their guitars and their voices. Hiatt played the first number after some casual remarks from both. From then on the performers switched back and forth for every song.
What was so engaging throughout the entire event was the intimate warmth the performers created. Between almost every song they chatted amongst themselves and with the audience, all the while cracking jokes and making the whole audience laugh. It felt like we may as well have been in their living room, witnessing an informal jam session.
It is obvious that Lovett and Hiatt have been performing music for years. Both musicians wailed on their guitars as if the instruments were extensions of their bodies. In particular, I remember a flashy finger-picking blues style song performed by Lovett that was so down home. Hiatt’s blues soloing over Lovett’s playing was also impeccable. Every lick he played oozed the bluesy grit of American culture and soul. In combination with their guitar playing, both musicians’ raspy and grainy vocals coupled for an evening as rich as the American cookbook.
Midway through the show, the two called a guest performer onto the stage. Ryan Bingham, a young singer/songwriter, walked out in boots and a cowboy hat that obscured his face. The faceless cowboy seemed like an up-and-coming star of the next generation of the Hiatt and Lovett legacy. He played two songs in a similar style to the pair. Bingham has already made a major splash on the scene, having won an Oscar for best song for the film “Crazy Heart” in 2009. His mysterious cowboy persona and distinguishable musicality will surely be something to reckon with in years to come.
At one point or another, both Lovett and Hiatt forgot their lyrics or made some fumble in their performance. Sometimes this kind of slip is an indication of an unprepared performer or a growing artist. But for Hiatt and Lovett it merely added to their appeal, shortening the performer/audience gap and making them even more endearing. It is always interesting to notice the way a performer handles making a mistake on stage. No performer is immune to it, but the best performers are able to carry on with grace and charm as Hiatt and Lovett did. Being the witty duo that they are, the musicians made light of their mishaps and got the audience to laugh it off, bringing the whole group of people closer together. Hiatt and Lovett are great role models for those of us who aspire to perform.
The duo was of course met with a unanimous standing ovation and smiles all around. This article cannot do justice to the awesomeness of their show; I do not have enough space to do so. It was simply unforgettable, and surely to be remembered as one of the greatest nights ever in Campbell Hall.
Photos Courtesy of Thomas Grandoli
A version of this article appeared on page 8 of the Thursday, November 14, 2013 print edition of the Daily Nexus.