Last Night: Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt At The Grand

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Photos by Jason Wolter
Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt
The Grand 1894 Opera House, Galveston
June 27, 2011

Coming soon to an Improv near you: The comedic stylings of Lyle & Hiatt!

Almost sounds like one of those old-time yukster duos, doesn't it? It certainly played out like that Monday night in The Island's Romanesque ex-movie house - Laurel & Hardy or Abbott & Costello substituting songwriting for slapstick.

The two made a natural team, Lovett taking on the role of shy and stammering yet sly and incisive inquisitor, with Hiatt as the gruff but vulnerable curmudgeon. After Hiatt opened with "Tennessee Plates," which culminates with its joyriding hero stamping out aluminum tags in Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, Lovett observed that the prison song is actually about the American Dream: "He drives off with the woman he loves... and winds up learning a trade."

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"Let's see... a car song that involves criminal activity..." mused Lovett before answering with "L.A. County," his Tinseltown murder ballad co-starring a "cold steel .45."

Sandwiched around the banter and the duo's constant attempts to out-deadpan one another, then, was a good two-plus hours of some of the sharpest, most soulful songwriting of the past 25 years. The added comedic context gave the two men countless chances to illuminate their or the other's work, as when Hiatt recounted mentor and ex-bandmate Ry Cooder exclaiming "I'm playing 'Danny Boy'!" while recording the gorgeous "Lipstick Sunset," or playfully asking Lovett if "Private Conversation" was about "talking to yourself."

Lovett, for his part, was pleased as punch to be back home; Aftermath could have sworn we saw his ears redden when Hiatt hailed him as Texas' 2011 State Musician, but we can't be sure. He did pay tribute to everyone from his mother and "In My Own Mind" inspiration Uncle Calvin (who were both there) to former Channel 11 weatherman Sid Lasher, the Grand operators and citizens of Galveston for restoring the theater after Hurricane Ike, and just about everyone he ever saw at Anderson Fair; old friend and Galveston resident Denice Franke came out to help the duo cap off the evening on Lovett's "Closing Time."

A good many of Lovett's reflections came pouring out before "South Texas Girl," his melancholy waltz-time memories of riding around with his parents and handy pronunciation guide to Refugio and Palacios (featuring a cameo by Lasher). Lovett's mandolin-like strumming, about as high up on the neck of his guitar as he could go, brought the room to a church-like standstill - the recurring presence of "Mother Maria" in the song also helped - and prompted a response from Hiatt that was one of the few times neither of the two men had anything sarcastic to say.

"Just beautiful," Hiatt said, and that was all he said before shifting gears into the jaunty "Memphis In the Meantime," further endearing himself by mocking Kenny Chesney and giving a "haw-haw-haw-haw" like Billy Gibbons in "La Grange."

Location Info


The Grand 1894 Opera House

2020 Postoffice St., Galveston, TX

Category: General

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Hubby and I fully enjoyed the music, as we expected, but the banter was just icing on the cake. I knew of their humor, its all over their song writing (cream chipped beef on toast? lol) but I had no idea it would play such a strong part in their show. What an enjoyable evening.


The guy with his socks hanging over the orchestra box balcony.... Maybe his seat was as small as mine. I couldn't look away. But... this is Texas...I'm glad you thought Hiatt sounded like Neil Young last night cuz we did too. He was a good sport, too. The thing that impresses me is how crowds seem to not know lyle's music when they show up there. The Grand mainly sells subscriptions to islanders who trust The Grand' sensibility and show up for a reliably curated show. Did you notice that the humor *in* Lyle's songs came as a surprise to everybody? ie: nobody knew the words. I guess that's pretty cool too tho. I guess he's just got a reputation that people respond to. Maybe he's something of a bucket list artist for people around here. After all, it's too late to see Townes.


Wish I could've been there. Sounds excellent.


"The Grand mainly sells subscriptions to islanders who trust The Grand' sensibility and show up for a reliably curated show."... Wrong. the largest audience base is from the mainland.


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