They could have called this “The Good Songs and Witty Banter Tour.” Or “Two Guys with Guitars and Lots of Good Songs.”
Wednesday’s show at the Uptown Theater featured John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett, two of the more esteemed songwriters of the past 30 years or so, on stage with no one but each other, passing the performing duties back and forth, as if on a front porch or in front of a campfire.
Hiatt opened the evening with “Circle Back,” a song with a Topeka dateline about withstanding life’s changes. Lovett followed with “In My Own Mind,” a classic from his “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” which includes a verse about a couple stepping carefully through the morning grind: “Kiss her on the forehead / Ask her how she slept / She says, ‘Honey, it’s so early / We probably shouldn’t speak yet.’ ”
Afterwards, Hiatt acknowledged the wisdom of that verse, admitting it was wisdom he came by the hard way in his marriage.
And so it went. Each sang a song. Between songs, they traded quips and observations. One was about talking to oneself, which Lovett admitted was a habit. “What about when you’re out in public?” Hiatt asked. “I pretend I’m on the phone,” he deadpanned.
The show lasted 15 minutes beyond two hours, without a break. Throughout, each performer showed off his skills picking and plucking a guitar. Hiatt played the blues harp on a couple of tunes. Occasionally, one pitched in some harmonies on the other’s song.
They thanked their audience of about 1,000 several times for its attentiveness and generous applause – gratitude that was deserved. This was a crowd that came to listen and enjoy.
The set lists comprised some of each songwriter’s classics. Hiatt’s included “Lipstick Sunset,” “Walk On,” “Tennessee Plates,” “Cry Love” and “A Thing Called Love.” During that one, he thanked Bonnie Raitt for making it a hit and for the financial reward that came with it, but he mentioned, with some feigned discouragement, how she left out the verse with “love, honor, cherish and obey” in it.
Lovett’s included “Private Conversation,” “This Old Porch,” “L.A. County,” which Hiatt called “a good killing song,” the savagely witty “Her First Mistake,” “Fiona,” “My Baby Don’t Tolerate” and the song everyone seemed to be waiting for, “If I Had a Boat.”
Hiatt ended his evening with one of his best songs from one of his best recordings: “Have a Little Faith” from the impeccable “Bring the Family” album. It’s a bluesy hymn about unconditional love and trust. He would turn one note into a long, lone, sustained wail, filling the large theater with the resonance of one man’s voice and the power of a song.
| Timothy Finn, The Star