Out-of-place is not a feeling one should experience when going to a concert. However, easily being 15 to 20 years younger than any other person in a massive concert hall might invoke that very feeling. Sitting quietly, I minded my own business until the lights dimmed.
Seconds later, two men appeared on stage and took their seats next to their guitars. Over the next two hours, the “why am I sitting next to all these old people?” jitters disappeared and I fell into the music emanating from Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt’s guitars.
Tuesday night, the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts hosted an acoustic evening with two of the most respected and influential singer/songwriters over the last three decades.
Although they are not a duo, Lovett and Hiatt often take time out of their busy schedules to perform together. Each with rich histories of Grammy nominations and wins, it’s only proper to have two musical greats gracing a stage with one another.
While both men have distinct roots in country music, their music is not categorically country – ranging from folk, swing, blues and jazz, the two draw influence from a broad spectrum of American sounds.
Although similar in genre, Lovett and Hiatt have rather different styles of guitar playing and song-writing. Lovett is a much more talented composer than Hiatt. His playing style is heavily based around finger-picking, unconventional chords and a signature vocal delivery.
Two not-so-similar roads meet in Lovett’s unique career. In typical country fashion, the Texas cowboy in him prevails with an uncanny ability to envelop a listener in the story he tells with his songs. Meanwhile, the other side of the coin paints Lovett as a sophisticated humorist with comical charm and clever lyrics that make his music fun and entertaining.
Hiatt, on the other hand, generally performs songs that one could consider straightforward. Featuring relatively simple song structures, lyrics and chords, he keeps the listener interested in his music with his raspy vocals coupled with an ability to play both lead and rhythm guitar simultaneously – a talent Lovett did not showcase Tuesday night.
While Lovett tells better stories with his lyrics, don’t discount Hiatt’s knack for songwriting. Hiatt’s songs have been written for, recorded and covered by diverse artists the likes of Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Iggy Pop.
The show was interesting in that half of it consisted of pure and authentic acoustic guitar tunes while the other half was sincere, from-the-heart storytelling. Chalk-full of humor, wit and honesty, Lovett and Hiatt bantered between songs on topics spanning from family and friends, to music, love and even beer.
Taking turns playing songs from their illustrious careers, the concert had a great flow to it. While perhaps excessive at times, the dialogue between songs gave the audience a special insight into not only the artists’ personal lives but their music-making careers as well.
Occasionally joining in on each other’s songs, the two would add their own signature elements to the other’s songs. Lovett would harmonize vocals or add arpeggiated guitar licks to Hiatt’s songs while Hiatt would add back-up vocals as well as lead guitar breaks and fills to Lovett’s songs.
The two men’s different stylings, specialties and personalities complimented each other very well, making for an overall great performance. It’s true that this concert was primarily a show for an older demographic (read: twice our age). But, if you appreciate good musicianship and down-to-earth artists you would have enjoyed the show just as I did.
While it may be a stretch for some readers to imagine, but this concert was not an “in-your-face” rock show; in fact, it was hardly rock at all. There was no moshing, no clapping to the music, no yelling of “Freebird!” or wailing guitar solos. Instead, this was a brilliant evening of one stage, two chairs, three acoustic guitars and a couple seasoned musicians intimately sharing their stories and music to a sold-out crowd.
ANDREW ALBERTS can be reached at email@example.com.