After John Hiatt joined in on guitar behind Lyle Lovett as he sang “One Eyed Fiona” on Saturday at The Egg, Hiatt modestly noted things were coming together, implying they hadn’t been before.
The two singer-songwriters seldom actually collaborated, and always on Lovett’s songs: the double entendre “Keep it in Your Pantry,” about faithfulness in food, and on “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” about the consequences of unfaithfulness.
But they constantly played off each other in a loose and lovely sharing of tunes and tales.
Lovett said he and Hiatt were getting to know each other through their onstage conversations, thanking the capacity crowd for the opportunity. They made the most of it in chat that sometimes mused on NASCAR or guitar strings but other times tugged them from song to song.
Lovett launched into “Fiona,” for example, after a tall tale about a one-eyed dog, a reminiscence that sprang from a line — “faster than a dog can bark” — that Hiatt sang in “Crossing Muddy Water” just before.
Road trips were the theme of Hiatt’s “Drive South,” Lovett’s “Mother Maria,” Hiatt’s “Thunderbird” and Lovett’s “Lights of L.A. County,” sung in sequence, but with detours.
Lovett, who interviewed performers for the Texas A&M newspaper in his student days, interviewed Hiatt about the origins and the sexual significance of “Drive South” in the context of Catholic guilt. Hiatt preferred to trace the real inspiration of the song to poet Guillaume Appolinaire.
One interview back at Texas A&M led Lovett to record a song years later by interviewee Eric Taylor on his “Step Inside this House” album of tributes: Lovett’s loving rendition of Taylor’s “Memphis Midnight/Memphis Morning” was as high a highlight as his own best songs on Saturday.
Hiatt stepped away from his hits to introduce several new songs: the guardedly optimistic “Give This Love a Try” and the bluesy, nostalgic “Old Days Are Comin’ Back” — both from the release “Same Old Man” due in May. Otherwise, Hiatt delivered stripped down crowd-pleasers, with “Perfectly Good Guitars,” “Real Fine Love” and “Tiki Bar” earning shouts of recognition and “Have a Little Faith In Me” drawing an awed hush at encore time.
Lovett more than held his own on such terrific tunes as “My Baby Don’t Tolerate” and “If I Had a Boat,” the last song in the set.
Lovett at times referred to the proceedings as folk music, and it was in the stripped down presentation. Hiatt’s trusting introduction of fresh material, and the way these two old musical friends re-worked their songs led to that.
Neither messed much with the words or the chords, but Hiatt took as much advantage of his solo spots in Lovett’s tunes as any jazzman might; while Lovett seemed to talk as much as he sang, early in the show. He sometimes cracked up the crowd and Hiatt — by tuning, then starting to play and then stopping to talk some more.
The stories were fun. But anyone wanting more songs and less chat might have been content with this remark: “A good song stays good and a good song doesn’t need much help. “
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Categories: Life and Arts