A touring musician’s life is a nomadic life – rolling through the night, waking up in a different city that looks like the last one and finding the stage set up precisely as it was in the previous town.
Lyle Lovett said it’s like magic. Shawn Colvin compared it to “Groundhog Day.”
”Except we change our pants,” Lovett said.
”Sometimes,” was Colvin’s retort.
So it went at the duo Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett & Shawn Colvin inside Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium – Mem Aud, as the locals call it – on the campus of Athens’ Ohio University where the two traded warm, often funny banter and exchanged songs during a generous, two-and-a-quarter-hour set.
It was one-third Lovett, one-third Colvin and one-third the Lovett-Colvin comedy hour. Together, the three-thirds equaled an evening of well-rounded entertainment. Dressed in black and seated next to each other on a stage that said “living room” more than “performance space,” the friends welcomed their fans into their worlds and introduced themselves through songs and stories.
”Am I starting, or did I already start?” Lovett said to laughter as he tuned.
Ready to go from the moment he sat down next to Colvin, Lovett hit home run after home run, turning in songs such as “I’ve Been to Memphis” and “If I Had a Boat,” with nimble fingerpicking and his signature singing style.
Colvin, suffering from a cold, took a while to warm up. But once she did, she, too, scored often with beautiful renditions of “Shotgun Down the Avalanche” and “Killing the Blues,” perhaps best known as a cut from Alison Krauss and Robert Plant’s Raising Sand.
Lovett’s “Once is Enough” and Colvin’s “Summer Dress” were but a couple of the many solo tracks that illustrated the difference between the genre-hopping troubadour and the folkie.
Though they mostly sang alone, Lovett and Colvin occasionally harmonized together. And when they did, the results were mesmerizing, Colvin throwing back her head and raising an arm as her fulsome voice wrapped around Lovett’s sometimes-raspy fry to fill the cavernous space with harmony.
Colvin’s “Diamond in the Rough” benefitted nicely from this arrangement, the heartfelt lyrics buoyed on soaring, intertwined voices. Lovett’s lighthearted “Church” was similarly better off as their little choir of two sung from the crypt to the heavens.
Lovett sipped coffee while Colvin opted for water. He played two of the three guitars at his disposal. She alternated between Shawn Colvin and John Mayer signature Martin instruments, and although she travels regularly with Mayer, via the axe, she’s never met the Dead & Company guitarist.
Which might be a good thing. Colvin said she “always fuck(s) up” when she meets celebrities; she cried when she met Paul McCartney and drove Sean Penn away by saying, “You’re a Sean, too,” after he greeted her on the street.
When Lovett met Will Ferrell on an elevator, he had but two words – “You’re funny” – for the comedian, proving less is often more.
“You are, too – I don’t know about that music thing, though,” Ferrell said before walking away.
But Lovett’s got the music thing down just fine, whether he’s singing tender ballads or bluesy rockers. And between songs, Lovett acted as the deadpan, hilarious talk-show host, peppering Colvin with questions about her childhood, her career and her feelings about the recording studio. When she turned the tables and asked Lovett about his first recording contract, the big-haired Texan said his label sent him from Nashville to L.A. so he wouldn’t bother them.
”How’d that work?” Colvin asked.
”It’s a small country,” was the perfectly timed response.
And with Lovett and Colvin holding court, the 2,000-seat Mem Aud was a small space where each audience member was made to feel like a single, special guest.