Row L, Seat 25 (leftmost “center section” seat)
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
This is certainly true of Lyle Lovett & His Large Band. You can count on impeccable musicianship in a wide variety of styles. (The Wolf Trap program blurb listed “country, swing, jazz, folk, gospel, and blues”.) Most of the players remain the same; some have been with him for over 20 years. The basic structure of the lengthy, intermission-free set (about 2 ½ hours) is pretty standard: an instrumental intro (typically “Blues Walk”) that allows all of the band members to stretch out before Lyle takes the stage, a mostly upbeat sequence featuring the full band, a more acoustic/introspective mini-set in the middle that includes headlining takes by fiddler Luke Bulla and guitarist Keith Sewell, and a rousing final sequence (ending this night, as is often the case, with “Church”), and an encore or two. Classics such as “If I Had A Boat”, “Here I Am”, and “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)” find their way into almost every show.
The changes, of course, are what makes the experience so rewarding over the years. When compared to the previous time I saw them two summers ago, “Penguins” found its way to the beginning of the show, right after Lyle came on, while Francine Reed’s “Wild Women Don’t Have The Blues” moved to near the end. A couple of non-Lyle songs that he had contributed to movies, “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” and “Straighten Up And Fly Right”, appeared. And Lyle and Francine broke out some dance steps on both “Gee Baby” and “Penguins”. I don’t recall hearing “Choke My Chicken” before either live or recorded, and I don’t think I’d heard him do “Cute As A Bug” or “San Antonio Girl” live before. Those two are both from the stellar My Baby Don’t Tolerate album; an extended version of the title cut was one of the evening’s highlights.