Review: Lyle Lovett the Iconic Storyteller in Austin

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, ACL Live at The Moody Theater, August, 2023, Austin Texas

Music legend Lyle Lovett brought his famous Large Band for 3 amazing nights at Austin’s ACL Live. The Texan, now Austinite, has always helped artists by paying it forward throughout his career. This was evident with his choice of opening bands: Sierra Hull (first 2 nights), and Hayes Carll on the third.

Houston’s Hayes (now in Nashville), in all denim, had the look and charm and gave us Chris Christofferson vibes. We’ve been fortunate to cover Carll several times before, but tonight felt different. A storyteller himself (and not just in his songwriting), he share a lot of personal stuff that endeared him to the crowd even more. He gave mad respect to Lovett, his ‘favorite artist of all time….a dream come true to be opening for him…grew up listening to him and was so inspiring, magical and amazing that I’d like to do that someday’.

With coffee steaming from a mug, Hayes played from his catalog and opened with full band sound on “You Get it All” and rolled right into “If I May Be So Bold”- with great giddyup rhythm from strong bass and drums. His 3rd song that he co-wrote with Ray Wylie Hubbard, “Drunken Poet’s Dream” was a ‘singalong of sorts’ he laughingly said – ‘I’ll sing the first part if y’all can memorize it. It’s not a drug song, it’s about letting go of hangups in life.’ With hilarious lyrics, the entire crowd sang “I’m just the right amount of high”. Song with harmonica opening had a twinge of Dylan and Young. But 2 of the biggest standouts of the night came at the end- “Nice Things” he wrote in the pandemic about adopting a rescue dog, telling the hilarious story about this lab that was actually a great dane had ACL Live in stitches. And the final song “KMAG YOYO” was a cardio workout; he shared a funny story about his ACL Live taping that kept going off the rails. It’s a mad fast lyrical song (think Billy Joel’s or REM’s) that had the crowd cheering him on after nailing each verse and getting through it untarnished.

After a busy day joining the legendary Jody Denberg at KUTX studios, Lovett and his large band graced the stage (which included the amazing Austinite Warren Hood on fiddle). The band is enormous and barely fits on the stage- brass section, gospel sounding singers, great pickers, drummer, steel guitar- all with accolades (college professors, etc.). The show kicked off with funny “It’s a Naked Party” and rolled into “The Blues Walk” with fantastic solos (also sprinkled throughout the show). Several members he’s been playing with for decades including Buck Reid (since ’93); he likes putting them on the spot, making each of them chat with him about their lives.

“You folks are wonderful, its our 3rd night and we want to thank all at the Moody center for having faith in us. Thanks to Hayes Carll, I’ve known him a long time and thrilled to be in the same room”.

His over 20 song set included highlights of the beautiful cover of Tammy Wynette’s, “Stand By Your Man” that had the audience singing all the words. Lovett always showcases his Texas roots that are evident in many of his songs. He’s also known for his unique and hilarious lyrics, Lovett goes into storytelling mode about his 6 year old twins and the trials and tribulations trying to dress them when younger-rolling right into popular “Pants Is Overrated”.

Many songs from the set were from his 2022 album, “The 12th of June”. Other song highlights included the hilarious ‘life is so uncertain’ song…here I am song, talking bits, “Queen of Know” funny with soothing melodic sounds. He didn’t forget to include popular songs like “If I Had a Boat”, “My Baby Don’t Tolerate”, “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)”. Some diehard fans might have missed classics like “Closing Time”, “Give Back My Heart”, and “Cowboy Man”, but we appreciate the new stuff and the back catalog he did include such as encore song, “Church”.

Lyle and Warren Hood shared some nice moments talking about fishing with kids and Lyle’s traumatic childhood incident fishing in East Texas with his dad. But he shares jokes too, like the one about not being able to do both- growing up and playing in a band.

A special thing about Lovett is his ability to blend genre elements of jazz, country, western swing, folk, gospel and blues. There’s a reason for his accolades and Hall of Fame status; he’s a true trailblazer and continues to evolve his sound.

What an amazing night. Seeing this show at a smaller venue like ACL Live is so much more personable and engaging. View all our concert photos from the night on Austin 101 and our interview with him earlier this year.

Lovett and renowned singer-songwriter John Hiatt are heading out on a run of joint tour dates this fall kicking off on October 2 at the legendary Carnegie Hall in NYC. Lovett will also be co-headlining a few fall dates with Leo Kottke; both of these will be special experiences. Check out Lovett’s tour info and catch him if you can.

Hayes Carll Setlist:

You Get It All
If I May Be So Bold
Drunken Poet’s Dream
Any Other Way
Nice Things
She’ll Come Back To Me

Lyle Lovett Set list:

It’s a Naked Party
The Blues Walk
Stand by Your Man (Tammy Wynette cover)
Here I Am
On a Winter’s Morning
Pants Is Overrated
The Mocking Ones
Her Loving Man
Are We Dancing
Pig Meat Man
My Baby Don’t Tolerate
I Will Rise Up
I’ve Been to Memphis
A World Without Love (Peter & Gordon cover)
Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down
(Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers cover)
Nobody Knows Me
12th of June
If I Had a Boat
That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)

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