Koch Vision // 2004 // 81 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // April 7th, 2005
A large man and his large band
Some know him as the former Mr. Julia Roberts. Some know him as Lenny, the reluctant reverend who married Paul and Jamie on Mad About You. Some even know him as Sheriff Carl Tippett in Don Roos's The Opposite of Sex. But his fans know him as the long tall Texan. This gravel throated, stone faced, uncategorizable crooner continues to amaze audiences around the world and now he's able to work his magic in the comfort of your very own living room.
How is this possible, you might ask? Well, it's quite simple really. WTTW -- Chicago's public broadcasting network -- has revived their critically acclaimed 1970s series, Soundstage and their headliner opening act is the one and only Lyle Lovett, with special guests, dueling composers Mark Isham and the incomparable Randy Newman. Not a bad way to get started.
This edited 80-minute performance, backed by a 14 piece band and 26 piece orchestra, showcases three facets of the Texan's musical stylings. The first set consists of eight tunes from Lyle's 2003 album "Smile," a collection of film soundtrack cuts, and a mini-set by Randy Newman...
* "Blue Skies" (from the film With Honors) -- Like walking
into The Green Mill (a legendary Chicago jazz club) on a Wednesday night to
enjoy a gin & tonic and a laid-back jazz set.
* "Straighten Up and Fly Right" (Dear God) -- Lovett's unique phraseology is so unlike most of today's vocal stylists. With his deadpan, near immobile delivery, he's not much to look at on stage, but he's one hell of a joy to listen to.
* "Smile" (Hope Floats) -- It's amazing how an alternative country artist can put such an effortless and wonderful spin on these old jazz standards.
* "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You" (Kissing Jessica Stein) -- Lovett's gruff, sly voice and wicked sense of humor puts him in an elite class of performers with the likes of Charles Brown, Louie Armstrong, and Randy Newman.
* "Summer Wind" (For the Love of the Game) -- This aspect of Lyle's music does not lend itself to a get up and dance concert-going experience. It's more like being camped out with the object of one's affection, in a comfortable living room, on a bed of large overstuffed throw pillows, the room lit only by the dying embers of an aromatic wood-burning fireplace, while digesting a delicious meal and finishing off a great bottle of wine.
* "Moritat" (Quiz Show) -- Composer/arranger/trumpeter Mark Isham joins Lyle on stage for his rendition of "Mack the Knife," a surreal blending of Kurt Weil and Bertold Brecht's original tune superimposed on top of Bobby Darin's wildly successful cover, all the while drawing from the endless well of Lovett's own emotions. Exquisite!
* "Walking Tall" (Stuart Little) -- Watching his face, you witness small waves of emotion that are few and far between. And yet every audible sound emanating from Lovett's throat is bursting with passion.
* "You've Got a Friend in Me" (Toy Story) -- The great Randy Newman joins Lyle to recreate their Oscar-nominated tune from the Pixar classic. It's amazing how similar their delivery and appreciation for music is. Both exhibit a razor sharp wit so subtle it will slice clean through you before your brain even registers it. More importantly, both paint amazing visual landscapes with their music.
* "Political Science" (performed by Randy Newman) -- Speaking of sharp wit, this is Randy at his commentative best. The world needs access and visibility to more artists like Newman, who are willing to wear their hearts on their sleeves and express what the rest of us are thinking yet too afraid to say out loud.
* "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" (performed by Randy Newman) -- Only one word is needed here...Beautiful.
The second set brings Lyle back to his roots: an exceptional blend of country and gospel...
* "If I Had a Boat" -- I can only imagine listening to this tune
as played by an impressionable young Lovett at a crowded, smoke filled coffee
house on the campus of Texas A&M in the late '70s. Every line is a journey
filled with stunning scenery in a tune devoid of destination.
* "That's Right (You're Not From Texas)" -- Here comes that patented Lovett style: sharp lyrics, a steel guitar twang, and a devilish delivery complete with that shit eatin' grin.
* "Long Tall Texan" -- Can you picture bearing witness to his first performance of this tune...a second grade talent show just north of Houston, Texas? No lie! And now he has Randy Newman's influence to spice up the mix.
* "What Do You Do?" -- Back to that jazzy balladeering. Longtime collaborator Francine Reed accepts and returns Lyle's lyrical volley, word for word, and barb for barb. Just like Satchmo and Ella used to do.
* "Church" -- Old time religion from the deep south.
* "What'd I Say" -- Recorded before the passing of Ray Charles. Now a fitting tribute to a man and his music.
* "I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord" (The Apostle) -- Now you can get up and dance. Let the spirit move you...and it certainly will.
* "I'm Going to Wait" -- This rousing gospel tune brings the assembled, hand-clapping masses to its feet. A blessed way to wrap a wonderful evening of musical adventure.
Presented in high definition, full frame video, this sharp digital picture is a beauty to behold. Painted on a canvas of black, the performance is enhanced with splashes of reds, greens, blues, and purples, to suit the mood of each piece. Exceptional camera work puts you front and center without ever missing a beat. To top it all off, a robust 5.1 Dolby Surround track will convert your living room into a living, breathing jazz hall -- the smoky atmosphere is optional. An equally impressive 2.0 Stereo track is also provided for those without a surround system.
I had the pleasure of seeing Lyle in concert four ago at Chicago's Ravinia Festival. For as enjoyable an evening as that was, this performance rises head and shoulders above. Then again, I am a rabid Randy Newman fan, which obviously skews my response. He'll be back again this summer and I don't plan on missing it.
Until this long tall Texan makes his way to your neck of the woods, I highly recommend picking up Soundstage presents Lyle Lovett, Live in Concert. After watching it, keep the disc on hand to play in the background for your next dinner party or social gathering. At a mere $19.98, you can't argue with good music at a great price.
So pop the cork on that bottle of wine, get some great take out food, and kick back for an evening of great music you are guaranteed to enjoy!
Review content copyright © 2005 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery
* Meet the Band
* Backstage Pass -- The nuts and bolts of Soundstage
* IMDb: Lyle Lovett
* WTTW's Soundstage
* Randy Newman Official Site
* Mark Isham Official Site