MISSION — Lyle Lovett and His Large Band is, indeed, large.
In most every way, from sound to stage presence.
That seemed to be consensus of concertgoers at Wildhorse Resort & Casino on Sunday evening, where hundreds of people braved a direct blast of sun to hear Lovett at the resort’s outdoor venue.
Although a moderate breeze kept true misery at bay, the 90-degree heat hazed the nearby foothills of the Blue Mountains and sent fans to the beverage tents in packs.
They emerged as the magic began with Lovett’s 13 musicians starting things off in their very black suits and startlingly white shirts. The first number was big band swing in flavor, spiced with plenty of juicy brass.
To thundering applause, Lovett claimed the stage on the second number, giving “Black and Blue” his characteristic gravelly notes. “In 1956, she was just a kiss. In 1985, how could she come to this,” he mourned to his audience. “See she had yellow hair. She had high-heel shoes. Lipstick was everywhere, and you left her black and blue.”
Accepting the enthusiastic applause, Lovett changed mood with his cheeky “Choke my Chicken,” earning another round of shouting and clapping.
If Lovett is called a country western act, this wasn’t your daddy’s country. And fans at Wildhorse were more than ready for eclectic selections as the singer and his boys hopped from one genre to another, making it look ever so easy.
Even when it meant mopping sweat off brows and taking those black suit jackets off. “Playing this early in the day is so weird,” Lovett said, shading his eyes against the yellow orb in the sky. “Can our lighting man turn down the spotlight?”
He next endeared himself to all who were longing to move their bodies to his music. “Can people dance someplace,” he asked the contingent of security officers on the lawn. “And enjoy themselves, maybe off to the side?” In minutes, a dance party had formed, populated with the old and the young, many of whom stayed there and swayed the night away.
Lovett continued to ply his rich voice to song, his words riding the crest of notes from his brass section, underscored by cello, bass and steel guitar. The combination filled the outdoors, going on out to the highway in the distance and bumping up against the mountains, rolling up to the cloudless sky.
The night seemed endless. Cameras and cellphones went up and down like prairie dogs to capture a moment of largeness, and one group screamed out “We love you, Lyle!”
Lovett gazed in their direction and grinned. “We thank you, but we love you more,” he said.
The artist handed out tributes like party favors. From giving band members a chance to show — and market — their own music, to a grateful call out to the ladies on “My Baby Don’t Tolerate.”
Without their women, Lovett explained, on behalf of men everywhere, “we just couldn’t even get along.”
By 7:30 p.m., the breeze had kicked it up a notch, allowing the evening to cool to perfect. Few listeners left their seats, enchanted by the sly humor and wrenching melodies coming from the stage.
Lovett also paid homage to songwriter Jesse Winchester, addressing Winchester’s sister in the audience. Her brother is one of his heroes, Lovett told the crowd, launching into an anecdote about meeting the man many had musically likened him to.
The singer said he stuttered and shuffled his feet when in the presence of Winchester, telling the songwriter it was such an honor to be compared to him. “And Jesse, he looked at me and said, ‘I don’t see it,’” Lovett drawled as his audience hooted in appreciation.
With that the large band dived into “Isn’t That So,” written by Winchester. Silver heads of hair and necks baked red by sun shimmied and shook, men with work-calloused hands waggling their fingers playfully on “Now, isn’t that so? Isn’t that so? You got to go when your heart says go, isn’t that so?”
Eventually all had to go as the night ended. Not before Lovett granted some requests for fan favorites and sang a song for Walla Walla attorney Bridie Monahan Hood. “Thank you for dancing,” he called over to Hood. “Thank you for bringing your family, all 24 of them.”
Sheila Hagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8322.