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Unplugged Perfection: Lyle Lovett and His Acoustic Band

Updated: Apr 4

Written by Loralee Christensen | Edited by Paul Olguin | Photography by Cheryl Alterman

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen Lyle Lovett many times throughout the years. I saw him in the late 1980’s, at the Warfield in San Francisco, with his Large Band and with the feisty and powerful vocalist Francine in tow. I saw him in the late nineties, at the now long gone Konocti Harbor in Clearlake, quipping, with his very dry and very funny sense of humor, about how the wind “was messing up his hair.” I saw an intimate performance, a couple years ago at the San Rafael Civic Center, where he and Robert Earl Keen sat on the stage with their acoustic guitars and spent the evening sharing the stories of their songs and of their longtime friendship. Tonight this stunning performance of Lyle Lovett was at the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa.

One of the many things that I adore about Mr. Lovett, beside his poetic lyrics, his stellar sense of musicianship, his sublime storytelling and his wicked sense of humor, is the fact that every show that I’ve seen, every line up, every incarnation, has been consistently great. To put it simply, he just does not disappoint. Wednesday’s show, at the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa, was no exception. In fact, it was sincerely one of his best. 

Lyle’s sparse but mighty band lineup included Lee Sklar on bass (if you don’t know who this incredible gentleman and stellar, iconic bass player is you’ve been living under a rock!), the genius Jim Cox on keys, the astounding Jeff White on guitar and mandolin and the amazing Stuart Duncan on fiddle with both Jeff and Stuart providing angelic harmonies along the way. Lyle and his band served up some of Lyle’s most treasured and popular tunes, “If I Had A Pony,” “Church,” “Here I Am” along with some of my personal favs “Nobody Knows Me Like My Baby,” “God Will,” “North Dakota” and “This Old Porch.” Lyle gave us a beautiful tune, co-written with Jim Cox, “Are We Dancing”, off of his latest 2022 album “12th of June.” He also performed a sweet song, inspired by his six-year-old twins, “It’s A Naked Party,” in which his daughter adamantly demanded the mention of a unicorn and his son’s request was that a dinosaur also be included in a verse. Dad (Lyle) did not disappoint.

The evening was magical. Great songs, stories, laughter, tears. On the drive home I was pondering what it was, aside from his obvious talent, that makes Lyle Lovett so special. I think the secret lies in his last name “Love.” I think Lyle’s loving heart is reflected in everything he does. All you really have to do is just take a listen to one of his songs. The lyrics and melodies are inspired and insightful. Watch him as he generously shares the stage with his band mates, having them sharing THEIR stories and featuring THEIR talents. Listen to the affection in his voice as he tells you stories of the origins of his tunes, his childhood, his parents, his friends, his journey, his life. Look at his eyes light up and the pride he exhibits as he speaks of his family, his children and his roots. I think that Lyle Lovett’s authenticity, honesty and unadulterated genuineness is the key to it all. I think Lyle’s warmth, humor, kindness, poignancy, caring, and inclusiveness is infectious and is a very welcome commodity for many of us. I think Lyle is THAT guy that we all genuinely want to hang out with. He makes people feel good and who doesn’t want to feel good especially in today’s world?

(affiliate links) Lyle Lovett Joshua Judges Ruth (paperback) -

Leland Sklar Everybody Loves Me (hardcover) -

Lyle Lovett Release Me (vinyl) -

Lyle Lovett and his Large Band (vinyl) -

© Cheryl Alterman Photography 2024

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