JP Beato / Associated Press
When John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett team up for an acoustic singer-songwriter concert, you go for the songs and come away appreciating their humor as much as their music. Monday’s soldout show at the State Theatre was one reward after another. These guys play without a net – no set list, no rehearsed patter, no plan other than to alternate playing a song.
Naturally, Hiatt did more uptempo and forceful tunes (like a swampy “Memphis in the Meantime”) while Lovett leaned on his folkier tunes. Sometimes, especially near the end of the generous 2 ½-performance, they collaborated on vocals or Hiatt played lead guitar on a Lovett tune. But mostly, it was solo – with each playing the straight man for the other.
Hiatt: “I remember seeing the teleplay of ‘Death of a Salesman’ on TV with Lee J. Cobb as kids. I watched it and thought, ‘That’s my father.’”
Lovett: You’re saying that Lee J. Cobb hung out with your mother?”
Hiatt: “No, they were similar men.”
Lovett: “That’s a metaphor.”
And Lovett continued: “Do you think a good salesman can sell something even if he doesn’t believe in the product?”
Hiatt: “I think Billy Mays was behind all that stuff, and the guy that does the the Sham Well who I think is in prison for something, I think he believes.”
Lovett: “They need a Sham Well to wipe up those WikiLeaks.”
Lovett even used Hiatt’s babble about how walking in the skyways is like walking in a mall to request “Walk On,” which Hiatt accommodated even though it wasn’t what he was planning to sing next.
Throughout the evening, Hiatt received unsolicited requests from friendly fans.
Said he: “Lyle knows sometimes I take requests but I don’t do them till the next night.”
On Monday, he instantly honored requests from the fans even though he wasn’t seeking them.
Here is the set list as best I can recall:
Almost Fed Up with the Blues (Hiatt)/ North Dakota (Lovett)/ Walk On (Hiatt)/ L.A. County (Lovett)/ Thunderbird (Hiatt)/ Pontiac (Lovett)/ Cry Love (Hiatt)/ This Old Porch (Lovett)/ Evaline (Hiatt)/ Private Conversation (Lovett)/ ??? (Hiatt)/ Cowboy Man (Lovett)/ Memphis in the Meantime (Hiatt)/ Memphis Midnight Memphis Morning (Lovett, cover of Eric Taylor tune)/ The Open Road (Hiatt)/ Fiona (Lovett)/ Lipstick Sunset (Hiatt)/ Natural Forces (Lovett)/ Is Anybody There (Hiatt)/ If I Had a Boat (Lovett)/ Thing Called Love (Hiatt and Lovett, with a mid-song discussion about Bonnie Raitt and why she left a verse out)/ Ain’t No More Cane (Lovett) ENCORE Have a Little Faith (Hiatt)/ My Baby Don’t Tolerate (Lovett, with Hiatt guitar solo)