Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt charm Chumash crowd

June 6, 2011

Lyle Lovett


Why do some people seem to get all the talent and ability? Most of us are lucky if we can do one or two things really well.

Well, both Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt demonstrated that such good fortune comes in bunches. Well known as quintessential American songwriters, Lovett and Hiatt can also boast playing guitar, singing, storytelling, performing and entertaining to their wide array of talents.

It would really be annoying if they weren’t so damn humble about it.

Thursday night before a half-capacity but appreciative audience at the Santa Ynez showroom, Lovett and Hiatt traded barbs, jokes, stories and of course many songs as if they were entertaining friends in front of a fireplace or a campfire. Armed with only an acoustic guitar, harmonica and their own unique voices, the duo held court for over two hours, keeping the crowd spellbound the whole time.

You can often tell how good a show is by the distracting chatter and banter among your fellow concert goers and there was very little when these guys got on stage.

Lovett is certainly the more quirky and probably the more successful and popular of the two, likely in part due to his ill-fated marriage to Julia Roberts. And no doubt his slew of mournfully ironic songs like “If I Had a Boat,” ‘Private Conversation” and “She’s No Lady” are among the coolest and most original tunes ever written.

And his sincere compassion for hard-scrabble rural life and its traditions is probably unparalleled in the entertainment industry.

Still, I would argue that Hiatt is the more underrated and accessible of the two musicians. He’s the guy you’ve never heard of despite his many hits like Bonnie Raitt’s radio staple “Thing Called Love.” And when he played new songs like “Adios to California,” instead of tuning out, you paid more attention and marveled that it was as good as his classics. That’s not an easy thing to pull off live.

Lovett and Hiatt clearly have a mutual admiration so the show was interesting because they didn’t really play together or accompany the other. Instead, each took turns at the mic playing their original tunes of heartbreak and hope in the heartland of the American southwest, while the other just sat there and listened like the rest of us. Hiatt in particular mixes and glides through more musical genres than just about any American artist. His impressive recording resume includes, rock, folk, blues — even some new wave.

Needless to say, it was a treat to experience such an engaging concert, heartfelt and lighthearted at the same time. As I like to say: two is better than one, especially with a hearty pair like this.

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Wish I could have been there, love them both.