That’ s the ticket
Who: Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
When: 7 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 11
Where: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis
Tickets: $35-$65 general; $17.50-$32.50 students
Info: www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787
By Han-ah Sumner
In 1996, singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett introduced himself to his audience at New York’s Madison Square Garden as just “the guy who sits next to you and reads the newspaper.” Aptly put, because Lovett’s odd collection of songs and the stories he sings about are just as diverse as those found in a newspaper. His music is surprisingly varied, bringing together a sense of sweet sentimentality with the quirky, deadpan delivery that won him a local following through his two previous visits to the Mondavi Center.
On Sunday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m., Lovett will return to Davis, this time with his Large Band. Always defying categorization, he told NPR that this ensemble was “never a straight-up, legit big band.” Rather, Lovett described it as “a lot of people, but it wasn’t big band music, really.”
Instead, the band serves as a versatile arrangement, ready to lend itself to Texas country, swing, blues, jazz ballads, folk or gospel. As Lovett told Esquire, “The better your bandmates, the better you’re going to look,” and his Large Band features talented musicians who stand in their own right, showcasing individual members with solos throughout the songs.
This is not Lovett’s first time performing on Davis’ big stage. In 2010, he made his Mondavi debut, sharing the bill with fellow singer songwriter John Hiatt, and in 2012, Lovett returned with an acoustic group (smaller than his Large Band) and another collection of original songs and covers.
At the 2012 concert, while praising Jackson Hall’s marvelous acoustic, he showed off his wry humor, adding, “The problem with a room like this is … you can hear!”
For a four-time Grammy winner, Lovett lacks pretension, and there is an ease in his manner that is undeniably charming. In his latest album, “Release Me,” he opens in true Southern style with “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom,” with fiddles flying and electric guitar close behind. Also in “Release Me” he brings his infectious humor in the rag “Keep It Clean” together with a more tender, contemplative style as in “Dress of Laces.”
Born in 1957, Lovett grew up on a family ranch in Klein, Texas, a small suburb (near Houston) named for his grandfather. He began singing while a student at Texas A&M, performing in coffee houses and pizza parlors. After leaving Texas to study in Germany, he returned home and made his commercial debut with a self-titled album in 1986. While Lovett now performs all over the world, Texas is never far from his mind.
“My sense of home never leaves me,” he once told an interviewer, and an homage to Texas is reflected particularly in the jaunty feel of his 1996 album “The Road to Ensenada.” In a song from that album, “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas),” Lovett purrs, even if “You’re not from Texas, Texas wants you anyway.”
Lovett displays his Lone Star State hospitality, and his fans wouldn’t have it any other way.