LIVE: Lyle Lovett & Shawn Colvin @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 3/8/18
Review by Steven Stock
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
The stage crew had a pretty cushy gig at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on the second Thursday in March. Two lightly-cushioned black chairs flanked two small, low, black tables cluttered with bottled water and paper cups. Two stands holding acoustic guitars were within easy reach alongside and slightly to the front of each chair. Two chairs, two tables, four guitars: that’s all Lyle Lovett and Shawn Colvin needed to entertain a near-capacity audience for two hours.
Lovett was nattily attired in suit and tie, and Colvin looked smashing in a sleeveless knee-length shiny black dress, but aside from their fancy duds the evening had a charmingly spontaneous low-key feel. The duo bantered between almost every song, trading anecdotes about Paul Simon, Walter Hyatt, tattoos, horns and the Human Enigma, as well how much they enjoyed the recent snowfall. They shared a definite comic rapport, as when Lovett mischievously asked “Do you have a type?” and Colvin mock-wearily replied “Not anymore.”
The pair were a good match in other respects as well. Perhaps most important was the way the wry humor of Lovett’s material served to offset the melancholic cast of Colvin’s best work. For instance, Colvin’s rendition of “The Facts about Jimmy” was quietly devastating, one of the evening’s highlights, and it surely benefited from the contrast provided by the preceding “I Married Her Just Because She Looks Like You” and the subsequent “Fiona.”
It was a show filled with subtle pleasures: the way Lovett’s phrasing turned the last word in “She’s No Lady” into something akin to a groan (“she’s my wi—ii—fe”), Colvin’s dexterous fingerpicking on “Shotgun down the Avalanche,” the duo’s lovely harmony vocals on the chorus of “I’ve been to Memphis.” “Not much more I love better than singing harmony with somebody as good as you,” marveled Colvin after the song. “It’s so much fun.”
Of course not everything was utterly perfect. “You play in a lot of different tunings,” Lovett remarked as Colvin prepared for “Wichita Skyline.” “I have a tuner, but I don’t use it,” replied Colvin, which prompted a face from Lovett that had the crowd laughing. Anyway, Colvin does spend a fair amount of time tuning and she’s so intent on it that she doesn’t talk much. It may be hard for Lovett to cover for her as he doesn’t know how long the tuning will take. Perhaps that’s just the price we pay for spontaneity.
More importantly, it seemed the show was building to a climax that was never delivered. The duo alternated songs, for the first seven never joining in together. Lovett contributed harmony vocals to “The Facts about Jimmy” and after that they often sang together on choruses. But, they never engaged in a full-fledged duet, and they never both played guitar on the same song – a missed opportunity, especially given the famed acoustic properties of the Music Hall.
Obviously songwriters of this caliber aren’t going to play George Jones and Tammy Wynette or Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris for a full set, but finishing with an impassioned duet of some sort such as “Love Hurts” (preferably not the Nazareth version!) would have been a fitting climax. They’re only a week into the tour so who knows how the show will evolve? As it was, most of the audience seemed content with the closing salvo, a heartbreaking version of Colvin’s “I’ll Be Back” followed by a rousing rendition of Lovett’s “Church” that had everyone clapping the beat.
LYLE LOVETT & SHAWN COLVIN SET LIST
She’s No Lady
American Tune (Paul Simon)
You’ve Been So Good Up to Now
Another Long One
Lonely in Love (Walter Hyatt)
‘Til I Get It Right
I Married Her Just Because She Looks Like You
The Facts about Jimmy
Shotgun Down the Avalanche
I’ve Been to Memphis
Give Back My Heart
Killing the Blues
If I Had a Boat
Diamond in the Rough
I’ll Be Back