C2C have a decent track record of coming up with the goods when it comes to the ‘Legend’ slot on the Sunday evening. Marty Stuart was the pick of the bunch for his outstanding, standing ovation-provoking performance, whilst Emmylou Harris impressed us with her gorgeous back catalogue of legendary recordings. This year, it was the turn of Lyle Lovett to try and convince the O2 crowd. Taking Marty as an example, the audience are always fairly subdued at this point due to, I would imagine, lack of knowledge of the artist’s material, but they’re a very engaged crowd who will eventually start to show their appreciation when they’re in the presence of greatness.
Lyle’s set was a similar story, albeit not quite as special as Marty’s appearance. His style and sound would have taken many by surprise; it wasn’t country, in fact it wasn’t really anything specifically. It was an eclectic mix of jazz, blues and roots music, a huge departure from what we’d heard over the course of the weekend. Starting with the jazzy ‘Cute As A Bug’ and the humorous ‘Pants Is Overrated’, there was a totally different groove and feel to what we were used to. Whether you enjoyed the set or not, you must admit that Lyle and his band (some of whom have been with him for many, many years), were simply awesome and brought incredible experience and know-how to The O2 stage.
To add to the eclectic sound, Lyle was joined on stage by backing vocalist Francine Reed, who added a lot of soul to the performance, almost transporting us to New Orleans with her wonderful vocals. She sort of became the star of the show during her centre-stage moments on ‘What Do You Do’ and ‘Wild Women Don’t Have The Blues’. That’s very much how Lyle seems to craft his shows; it’s not about him, it’s about the overall production, and he makes sure that every person on that stage has their moment to shine.
The best moment in the set for me was the beautiful ‘If I Had A Boat’, from way back in 1988. Definitely the most ‘country’ part of the show, it had a wonderfully classic, traditional feel and the acoustics sounded incredible at The O2. One of the best songs I heard all weekend, and that’s no exaggeration.
You could feel the audience responding more and more with each song, and at the end of ‘White Freight Liner Blues’ to close the set, Lyle was given a very warm reception as he and his musicians left the stage. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance and loved seeing his masterful band at work. Whether it was the best fit for a country festival, I’m not quite sure, but it was certainly a multi-genre musical masterclass.
1. Cute as a Bug
2. Pants is Overrated
3. I Will Rise Up
4. My Baby Don’t Tolerate
5. North Dakota
6. Twelfth of June
7. If I Had a Boat
8. Here I Am
9. What Do You Do
10. Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues
11. That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)
13. White Freight Liner Blues